STE. HYACINTHE, Quebec – Olymel LP, one of Canada's largest pork processors, announced plans to phase out gestation crates from its pork production operations by 2022.

The company said numerous experts favored a ban on gestation crates to allow sows to better express natural behaviors, move around freely and receive a higher level of welfare.

"Olymel believes that a ban on the use of gestation crates is inevitable in the medium and long term. Canada, along with the US, must follow suit," the company said in a statement. "Our company believes that the entire pork production sector will have to respond positively to the demands of an increasing number of domestic and international clients who favor pork products originating from facilities which do not use crates to house pregnant sows."

Olymel currently operates two bacon production facilities in Drummondville, Quebec and Cornwall, Ontario, in addition to nine pork processing and packing plants and a several poultry facilities. In January, Canada's Competition Bureau cleared the way for Olymel to acquire Big Sky Farms, Canada's second-largest pork producer.

Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods also have plans to phase out use of gestation crates in their pork operations.