McDonald’s, in cooperation with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has announced plans to end the use of gestation crates for breeding pigs in its American supply chain.The small metal cages, which are used to confine sows during pregnancy and into most of their adult life, are viewed by many animal-rights groups as an inhumane practice of factory farming. A 2010 undercover investigation by The HSUS documented pigs stuffed into gestation crates and covered in blood from gnawing on the metal bars, among many other abuses.
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In early 2011, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer and supplier of McDonald’s McRib meat, posted a rosy series of videos on YouTube offering a behind-the-scenes look at pork production at one of the company’s hog farms.
In response, The HSUS filed a complaint against Smithfield Foods, charging the Virginia-based corporation with misleading consumers about the living conditions of its pigs.
Now the world’s largest fast-food chain is requiring its U.S. suppliers to submit plans to phase out the use of the narrow crates, reports Leslie Patton of Bloomberg.
At the end of 2011 Smithfield Foods committed to phasing out gestation crates by 2017 and is now leading the way for other pork suppliers.
Pork producers argue that the crates are needed to keep pigs from fighting. The National Pork Producers Council CEO Neil Dierks told The Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman in 2007 that “the council considers gestation crates to be appropriate and humane.”
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