COLUMBUS, Ohio – Bob Evans Farms, Inc. will require all its suppliers to phase out gestation stalls by 2025, the company announced March 13.

“Consistent with the livestock care standards adopted in our home state of Ohio, by 2025, we will require all suppliers to source animals from housing systems that provide the animals with ample opportunity for movement and comfort and ensure the safety of the workers who care for them. We believe this is best achieved by transitioning from conventional gestation stall housing to systems that provide greater freedom of movement and individual care and safety," the company said. "To help us reach that goal, we will continue to seek counsel from our Animal Well-Being Committee and to support groups that conduct research on hog housing.”

In a statement, the company said the decision came much research and consultations with farmers, customers, industry trade groups and animal rights advocates.

“Bob Evans Farms’ internal experts consulted regularly on sow housing with members of our Animal Well-Being Committee, which includes three independent outside experts in animal behavior and well-being," the company said. "We also considered academic research and scientific literature that examined the advantages and disadvantages of individual and group housing environments for gestating sows.

“Our key learning is this – the single-most critical factor in ensuring animal well-being is not the housing system itself, but rather the animal husbandry practiced by those who care for the sows. Although there is no perfect housing system available, we will remain focused on quality animal care from trained, qualified caretakers and a safe on-farm working environment."

Recently, pork producers attending the National Pork Board’s National Pork Industry Forum approved a resolution reaffirming the industry's position that pork producers should be able to select a sow housing system, including gestation stalls or individual maternity pens, which best promotes employee safety and animal care while ensuring a reliable supply of pork for consumers.

"Pork producers, working with veterinarians, understand what it takes to provide the best care and welfare for their animals," said Karen Richter, a farmer from Montgomery, Minn., and National Pork Board vice president. "The National Pork Board builds its animal and well-being programs on the foundation of what are best for the pig. By adopting this resolution, producers are reaffirming their commitment to choose what type of housing is best for their animals."