Back in 2007, Smithfield Foods committed to a 10-year timeline to switch sow housing from stalls to group housing. Today it reported that as of the end of 2012, it had completed the transition of 38% of pregnant sows on its company-owned farms in the United States.

The Smithfield-VA-based firm says it remains on track to complete the conversion to group housing on all company-owned farms in the United States by 2017.

At its international operations, Smithfield says it will complete conversion to group sow housing from gestation stalls to group sow housing on company-owned farms by 2022. Company-owned hog operations in Poland and Romania were converted to group sow housing a number of years ago, and two company-owned facilities in Mexico will make the switch by 2022.

“We’re proud of the commitments made by our international operations, and here in the United States we are continuing to make good progress toward our goal of phasing out gestation stalls for pregnant sows at all of our company-owned farms, as our 2012 conversion number reflects,” says C. Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods.

At the time of the announcement of its 10-year commitment to phasing out gestation stalls in 2007, Pope acknowledged that extensive research into sow housing had concluded that both gestation stalls and group pens provide for the well-being of pregnant sows and work equally well from a production standpoint.

“There is no scientific consensus on which system is superior, and we do not endorse one management system over the other,” Pope said at the time. Learn more at www.smithfieldcommitments.com.

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) CEO Neil Dierks said in 2007 that Smithfield made a market-based decision and that it did not change NPPC’s policy on gestation stalls.

At the 2012 National Pork Forum, the National Pork Producers Council, in response to recent challenges and questions relating to sow housing options, passed a motion supporting a comprehensive study and evaluation of current housing options. This will be accomplished through a thorough evaluation of existing literature and determination if additional research is needed. The review will rely on leading experts from the fields of animal well-being, animal science and veterinary medicine. The findings will be submitted to the delegates at the 2014 National Pork Forum.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said he welcomed Smithfield’s announcement, but urged the company to work with its contract growers regarding system conversion.

Pacelle chided Smithfield’s major competitors, such as Tyson Foods and Seaboard Farms, for lagging in taking similar actions and for increasingly being out of step with consumer wishes.