CINCINNATI – The Kroger Co. released a new policy statement informing its pork suppliers that the company believes the industry should work toward gestation crate-free production.

"Kroger has science-based standards for animal welfare and works diligently to ensure that its suppliers treat animals humanely," the company said in a statement. "Over the past few months, the company has reviewed the opinions of animal-welfare experts and other experts regarding the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows and has concluded that there are many ways to humanely house sows.

"Kroger believes that a gestation crate-free environment is more humane and that the pork industry should work toward gestation crate-free housing for pregnant sows,” the statement continued.

"The company is encouraging its suppliers to accelerate this already-occurring transition in the Kroger supply-chain. Kroger also wants customers to know that this is a transition that may take many years," the statement concluded.

On its website, The Humane Society of the United States applauded Kroger "for calling on its pork suppliers to accelerate the elimination of gestation crate pig confinement."

Kroger is the largest traditional grocery retailer in the US, with 2,435 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states.