Smithfield Foods, Inc. and its hog production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown LLC, announced Tuesday that it is recommending all of its contract sow growers to convert hog production facilities to group housing systems for pregnant sows.
The company said that it is asking contract sow growers to convert by 2022 with a sliding scale of incentives to accelerate that timetable. Growers who commit to convert to group housing will receive contract extensions upon completion of the conversion, Smithfield said.
Murphy-Brown has already transitioned 54% of pregnant sows on company-owned farms to group housing.
The announcement supports the company's industry-leading effort that began in 2007 when it was the first major pork supplier to commit to transitioning to group housing systems on company-owned farms.
"More and more food companies are looking to suppliers to move toward group housing systems for pregnant sows," said Dennis H. Treacy, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer of Smithfield Foods. "To date, more than 50 companies--many of them Smithfield customers--have announced that they will source pork in the future from suppliers utilizing group housing."
Treacy emphasized that although the conversion of contract sow growers' facilities to group housing systems is being encouraged, it is not mandatory. If growers choose not to participate, their current contracts with Murphy-Brown will remain unchanged, although extensions are less likely.
C. Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods, understands fully what the company is asking of its contract sow growers.
"We recognize that these projects require a significant investment on the part of our growers," Pope said. "But a well-planned renovation to a group housing system will help maintain the farms' value for years to come, while at the same time supporting our companywide commitment to animal care."
In 2007, Smithfield began the conversion to group housing for pregnant sows on all company-owned U.S. farms, with a 2017 deadline.
Smithfield's international hog production operations will complete their conversions from gestation stalls to group housing systems on company-owned farms by 2022. Operations in Poland (AgriPlus) and Romania (Smithfield Ferme) completed their conversions to group housing facilities a number of years ago