Stalled Out sow housing series

In this four-part series, Brownfield Ag News broadcaster Ken Anderson tackles the sow housing debate. Are companies that say no way to gestation stalls sticking to their plan? What's happening with the issue? Find out in this important update.

Stalled Out: The next round in the sow housing debate (Part 4)

 

Stall-free pork–reality sets in 

Many of the nation’s major restaurant, grocery and food service chains have called for the elimination of gestation stalls from their pork supply chains.  Is it possible some of them may be changing their minds?  Here’s the fourth and final report in our Stalled Out series.

AUDIO: Stalled Out series-fourth of four reports (1:00 MP3)

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National Pork Producers Council director of industry relations Dallas Hockman says he has met with 30 of those food companies in recent months.  Hockman says he can’t predict whether any of them will modify or retract their earlier statements on gestation stalls.  But he says they are starting to realize that moving to stall-free pork is not as simple as it sounds.

Are food companies willing to pay more for "stall-free" pork?  (Photo courtesy of Advanced Production Systems)

Are food companies willing to pay more for “stall-free” pork? (Photo courtesy of Advanced Production Systems)

“They have a full realization now that some of these changes, such as sow housing, are going to result in additional costs,” Hockman says, “and so we’re beginning to have discussions with some those major players about their willingness to pay more for the product.”

Hockman says those companies also realize that it may take a two-tier pricing system to encourage the conversion and segregation process.

“The stark reality is we still have a very small percentage of our industry that’s capable of delivering product of that nature,” he says. “We’re not seeing hardly any—very little—segregation occur at our packing plants, because it is a significant cost.”

Under pressure from the Humane Society of the United States, more than 50 food companies have made gestation-stall free announcements.

Stalled Out: The next round in the sow housing fight (Part 3)

 

Pork industry not ready to surrender

The battle between animal rights activists and the pork industry over gestation stalls for sows has been a heated one.  And even though the activists seem to have gained the upper hand, the pork industry is not ready to surrender just yet.  Here’s report number three in Ken’s four-part series on the sow housing issue.

AUDIO: Stalled Out series–third of four reports (1:00 MP3)

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The Humane Society of the United States has been successful in convincing some of the country’s major restaurant and grocery chains that gestation stalls are inhumane.  As a result, many of them have called for the elimination of stalls from their pork supply chains.  But according to Howard Hill with Iowa Select Farms, who is a veterinarian and president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, a majority of pork producers still believe that science is on their side.

Many pork producers are still convinced that gestation stalls are what's best for the animal. (Photo courtesy of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology)

Many pork producers are still convinced that gestation stalls are what’s best for the animal. (Photo courtesy of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology)

“The individual maternity pens are really designed for the welfare of the animal—to improve the welfare of the animal,” Hill says. “We know that when you mix animals together, they become aggressive—in group situations—and it’s harder to feed them and care for them on an individual basis.”

Sarah Pillen with Nebraska-based Pillen Farms, seems to reflect the attitude of many pork producers on gestation stalls.

“It allows for our sows to be protected—it allows them to have individual treatment—it allows them to make sure they’re getting the correct amount of food,” Pillen says. “It’s a great way to raise a pig—and we truly believe it’s the best way to do it.”

So is the battle over—or might some of those food companies be convinced to soften their stance on gestation stalls?

More on that in tomorrow’s report.

Stalled Out: The next round in the sow housing fight (Part 2)

 

Producers take a cautious approach

How is the pork industry responding to the calls for gestation-stall free pork?  Brownfield’s Ken Anderson asked that question at the recent World Pork Expo and found that most producers are taking a cautious approach.  Here’s the second report in his four-part series on the sow housing issue.

AUDIO: Stalled Out series: second of four reports (1:03 MP3)

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Pork producers are looking at various sow housing options. (Photo courtesy of Advanced Production Systems)

Pork producers are looking at various sow housing options. (Photo courtesy of Advanced Production Systems)

The trade show at this year’s World Pork Expo featured a wide array of sow housing systems.  We asked Tom Stuthman with Advanced Production Systems what he was seeing and hearing from producers.

“Everyone is tire kicking, for certain—everyone is looking at their options today,” Stuthman says. “We’re seeing gradual conversions, but most of those conversions have to do when people are doing expansions—then the expansion will be pen.

“Whether or not they’ll switch to total open pen in the future, it depends on what the market requires.”

Howard Hill of Iowa Select Farms, president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, says those new systems require a significant investment.

“I, for one, don’t think that we’re going to have a mass conversion,” Hill says. “Right now producers are not making money—we’ve got red ink—and so I just wouldn’t expect anybody to jump in and do a wholesale conversion.”

But Hill says another factor is that most pork producers are still convinced that gestation stalls—or individual maternity pens—are what’s best for the well-being of the sow.

More on that in tomorrow’s report.

Stalled Out: The next round in the sow housing fight (Part 1)

 

Buyer’s Remorse?

gestation stalls--porkknifeandspoon

The issue of sow gestation stalls in pork production has been one of most hotly-debated issues in agriculture in recent years.  It reached a crescendo in 2012 with a virtual avalanche of pronouncements from food companies—including major players like McDonalds and Safeway—that they planned to eliminate gestation stalls from their pork supply chains. 

But in the first of his series of updates on the sow housing debate, Brownfield’s Ken Anderson says some of those companies may now be feeling “buyers’ remorse”.

AUDIO: Stalled Out series-first of four reports (56 seconds)

 

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Have you ever made a rash decision, without doing the proper research, and then find yourself saying “What have I done!”

According to Dallas Hockman, director of industry relations with the National Pork Producers Council, that’s where some of the more than 50 food companies who have made gestation-stall free announcements find themselves today.

“Now that we’ve gone through a number of these announcements and we’ve had the opportunity to have a dialogue and visit with our customers who have made those (announcements), they’ve come to the realization that either, a) they were misled, or b) they made the announcement without a thorough evaluation of where the industry is at,” Hockman says.

“The stark reality is (stall-free) product is just not available.”

A 2012 survey of larger pork companies found that only 17 percent of sows spent a portion of gestation in open pens.   Producers surveyed indicated that number will climb to 24 percent in the next couple of years.

In tomorrow’s report—producers take a cautious approach.