OAK BROOK, Ill. – McDonald’s USA said the company has a plan to source all pork for its US businesses from producers that do not use gestation stalls by 2022.

The company said it plans to collaborate with pork producers and suppliers to develop traceability systems to verify pork sourced from “non-gestation stall supply chains” and how to best support producers that phase out gestation stalls. McDonald’s said the company’s goal is to achieve the traceability system by 2017.

“We value our relationship with our suppliers, and our shared commitment to animal welfare,” said Dan Gorsky, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain Management. “Our approach seeks to build on the work already in place, and we are also sensitive to the needs of the smaller, independent pork producers in phasing out of gestation stalls.”

Experts who advise McDonald’s on animal-welfare issues expressed approval for the plan, but the National Pork Board said producers with access to capital and markets could more easily transition from stalls. However, smaller farmers who use gestation stalls could be forced out of business.

"For a producer who has built a new barn in the past few years, McDonald's announced timeline could force them to make significant new investments," said Everett Forkner, president of the National Pork Board. "So to make the conversion, my fellow producers are going to have to go to a banker with a plan that is likely to increase costs and reduce productivity – not a plan that is likely to inspire great confidence in a banker or investor."

Dr. Temple Grandin, a faculty member at Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, Colo., and member of McDonald’s Animal Welfare Council, commended the company for taking initiative on a change that is “complex and will require additional resources.”

“The 10-year timeline that McDonald’s has outlined is necessary to research and identify better housing alternatives and ensure proper training of employees,” Grandin said. “This is really good forward thinking, and I commend McDonald’s for doing it.”

“Any system will have animal-welfare concerns, but I see real opportunity for innovation and better alternatives,” said Dr. Ed Pajor, professor of animal welfare, Univ. of Calgary and member of McDonald’s Animal Welfare Council. “This plan provides a ten-year window for McDonald’s producers and suppliers to develop practical and sustainable implementation steps to achieve the phase out of sow gestation stalls."

Forkner said the board's position is that peer-reviewed research shows that both stalls and open pens are appropriate ways to provide good care to pregnant sows. But decisions such as those made by McDonald's and other foodservice operators mean that farmers are being told by others which of the two systems works best on their farms, he said.

"We fully support continuing to explore new and better ways to protect pregnant sows," Forkner said. "Farmers are adopting improvements all the time as they study their farms and their animals. Going backward, though, will just put a huge financial burden on smaller pig farmers while doing nothing to improve the health and well-being of our pigs."