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CME: New Systems Could Lead to Costs & Tradeoffs

by 5m Editor
1 June 2012, at 8:59am

US - The push towards the elimination of gestation stalls for pregnant sows received some additional momentum yesterday as McDonalds announced that 10 years from now it will purchase all its pork from facilities that do not use such housing systems, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.

Ten years is a long time and should allow some producers to change their production practices given the nascent demand for this type of pork. It will allow them to also charge a premium for doing so. The decision from McDonalds fits with announcements from some large pork producers to eliminate gestation stall systems from their operations by the end of the decade. We have covered this topic extensively before.

So far, much of the discussion in the media has been dominated by activist groups that focus on very specific aspects of gestation stalls, such as confinement and not enough attention has been given to how alternative systems, such as group housing or various hybrids, compare to the current environment. There is far too many people, families and companies for whom the welfare of hogs is not a bullet point in a CSR PowerPoint slide. For them, it is a daily concern and preoccupation.

It is important that farmers and producers that care for these animals on a daily basis have a say in the debate as do animal scientists, veterinarians and people in the academia. As we have noted before, new systems can be put in place but there will be costs and tradeoffs. “The tradeoffs are more sow injuries, higher feed costs (mobility takes energy), higher labor costs, and very likely more injuries to workers. Those will not be free and, in the long run, consumers pay all costs. That last one always seems hard to remember.