Industry Takes Tentative Steps to Improve Pig Welfare

Tyson and Smithfield announced changes to their respective animal care programs for pigs and the operations they are raised within. Both companies are asking/instructing producers to improve their production practices by implementing basic animal welfare requirements and recommendations.

Tyson distributed a letter to its hog suppliers explaining how they need to change production practices in order to be in compliance with Tyson standards. The letter stated that all contract producers who manage Tyson-owned sows must terminate the use of manual blunt force as a form of euthanasia for sick and injured pigs. The letter also asked contract farmers to install video monitoring systems into facilities by the end of 2014, and improve gestation sow housing by implementing “quality and quantity of space” changes. While these are welcome steps forward, contract growers only account for approximately 5 percent of Tyson’s supply chain. Tyson is also requesting that all of its producers use anesthetics when tail-docking or castrating piglets as they fund research on practical pain mitigation.

Smithfield, the world’s largest hog producer, is recommending that its contract producers phase out the use of gestation crates by 2022. Smithfield committed to phasing out gestation crates in its company-owned facilities originally in 2007. Now, Smithfield is asking all of its contract producers to join them in converting to group housing systems. While the contract producers are not required to convert sow housing, the company claims that contract extensions will be less likely in the event that the producers do not change.

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