CANADA'S eight largest supermarket companies, in a joint statement last week, announced that they are moving toward pork procurement from only pork production systems that do not use gestation stalls for pregnant sows.
The announcement was made by the Retail Council of Canada, which represents Canadian grocery stores.
The announcement applies to all fresh pork sold through the eight supermarket companies, including fresh pork imported from the U.S., according to a spokesperson for the retail council.
Canada represented the fourth-largest export market for U.S. pork in 2012, accounting for 10.9% of U.S. pork exports.
The eight companies are Canada Safeway, Costco Wholesale Canada, Walmart Canada Corp., Loblaw Companies, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., Co-op Canada and Federated Co-operatives Ltd. They said they will complete the transition to stall-free pork by the end of 2022.
In the announcement, they acknowledged that gestation stalls have permitted "easier management" of sows through more consistent feeding and health care and have decreased sow injuries that result from aggressive behavior.
However, the announcement said stalls also restrict animal movement, which has led to concerns that stalls "inhibit natural behaviors."
The supermarkets noted that they are working with the Canadian Pork Council and the National Farm Animal Care Council "through a multi-stakeholder, robust process to update the 'Pig Codes of Practice' that is to be released for public comment on June 1."
The codes deal with a number of animal welfare issues, and it's widely believed that the update will call for or support a voluntary, industry-wide transition to alternative housing for sows, including group pens.
The supermarkets said they believe that sows should be housed in an environment in which their pregnancy, health and well-being "are taken into highest consideration" and that sow housing should be based on "a combination of sound science, stakeholder expectations and the industry's long-term viability."
The Retail Council of Canada, founded in 1963, represents 45,000 retail food stores of all formats.