OAK BROOK, Ill. – McDonald’s Corp. announced on Feb. 13 that it will require its US pork suppliers to outline their plans to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls. The announcement was made jointly with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). 

“McDonald’s believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows,” said Dan Gorsky, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain Management. “McDonald’s wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain. We are beginning an assessment with our US suppliers to determine how to build on the work already underway to reach that goal. In May, after receiving our suppliers’ plans, we’ll share results from the assessment and our next steps.”

During a teleconference held just after the joint statement was issued, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, said this is an indication that using confinement crates for gestating stalls as a core production practice is no longer a valid strategy. The announcement, he said, “makes it clear that that there is no future for gestation crates in the pork industry. He went on to mention commitments among pork processing companies, including Hormel Foods, Smithfield Foods to phase out the use of the stalls over a number of years. He added that HSUS expects other fast-food companies to follow McDonald’s lead.

“The science has been clear on this for some time,” Pacelle said. “Animals built to move should be allowed to move,” and that group-housing alternatives exist that wouldn’t necessarily cause the pork industry to lose money. He said the expectation is not for the companies involved in pork production “to really take a leap here and to pursue pig production on a hope and a prayer,” he said.

The move also received support from Dr. Temple Grandin, who said the move will improve the welfare of sows.

“…It takes a thorough plan to address the training of animal handlers, proper feeding systems, and the significant financial investment and logistics involved with such a big change. I’m optimistic about this announcement,” Dr. Grandin said.

Gorsky mentioned that other suppliers, such as Smithfield Foods and Cargill, have made significant progress in transitioning away from gestation housing to "commercially-viable alternatives."

"We applaud these, and future efforts,” Gorsky said.