The Kroger Co. announced this morning that it has started to inform its pork suppliers that it believes "a gestation crate-free environment" is a more humane means of housing pregnant sows than individual stalls and that pork producers should work toward a transition to stall-free housing for pregnant sows.
The company said it encourages its suppliers "to accelerate" this transition, which it noted already is underway. The company acknowledged that this transition "may take many years."
Kroger said it has long pursued science-based standards for animal welfare, and in recent months, the company has sought the advice of animal welfare experts and other professionals regarding the use of gestation stalls "and has concluded that there are many ways to humanely house sows" but that stall-free is more humane.
Kroger is the second-largest supermarket system in the U.S., after Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The Humane Society of the United States immediately applauded the announcement.
Kroger has taken "a very important step for animal welfare in declaring that the pork industry must find an exit strategy for its use of gestation creates," said HSUS chief executive officer and president Wayne Pacelle. "Americans believe that all animals deserve humane treatment and that "it's wrong for producers to immobilize pigs in small crates for months and even years," he said.
In recent weeks, a number of major fast food and chain restaurants and Safeway have announced expectations and schedules for pork suppliers to provide them with stall-free pork, and Kroger's announcement indicates its preparation to join that list. The move is driven by HSUS which has pushed hard to end the use of gestation crates.
Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, operates 2,435 stores in 31 states under two dozen banners. The company also operates 791 convenience stores and 39 food processing plants.
It had 2011 sales that totaled $90.4 billion.