WASHINGTON – Phasing out gestation stalls in hog operations provide no additional health benefits to sows and have forced some hog farmers out of business, according to R.C. Hunt, president of the National Pork Producers Council.

Hunt’s statement came in response to Safeway Inc.’s announcement that the company will give preference to pork producers who phase out gestation stalls. Safeway, the country’s second-largest grocery chain, said the company has substantially increased the quantity of pork the chain buys from producers who have committed to moving away from gestation stalls.

But Hunt expressed concern over Safeway’s actions.

“With regard to Safeway’s decision to give preference to pork suppliers who phase out individual sow housing, the National Pork Producers Council is concerned that similar actions taken by governments – or other restaurant or grocery chains – have increased production costs and consumer prices,” Hunt said. “These actions have forced some hog farmers out of business or caused them to reduce operations, with no demonstrable health benefits to sows.”

Citing a United Soybean Board 2011 study of the United Kingdom’s ban on gestation stalls, Hunt said pork supplies in the UK dropped 40 percent since the ban took effect in 1999, while pork production costs rose 12 percent above the European Union average in 2009. Pork prices climbed 25 percent between 1999 and 2004.

“While NPPC respects the right of companies to make business decisions that are in their best interests, it seems that Safeway was intimidated by an animal rights group whose ultimate goal is the elimination of food-animal production,” Hunt said. “The Humane Society of United States, which has filed shareholder lawsuits against food companies, has no concern for the hog farmers who care for their pigs every day, for families struggling to purchase food or for the hog farms that struggle to stay in business or may go out of business – costing rural America thousands of jobs – because of its campaign against America’s farmers.”