Maple Leaf Foods Inc., a leading North American producer of high-quality, sustainable protein, has said that by the end of 2021, it will complete transitioning all breeding sows in company-owned barns to its unique, industry-leading Advanced Open Sow Housing System.
In making the announcement, the company said, this “world-class system provides optimized, open housing during pregnancy that allows sows to roam, rest, feed and socialize freely.”
Maple Leaf said this shift in sow housing makes it a North American leader in producing pigs without gestation crates and represents another key milestone in the company's commitment to better care through advanced animal welfare.
Ending use of gestation crates
In 2014, Canada's pork industry committed to ending gestation crate use by 2024. As one of North America's leading protein producers, Maple Leaf Foods signed this agreement but set a more ambitious timeline to convert all its owned Maple Leaf Agri-Farms sow barns to a new Advanced Open Sow Housing System by the end of 2021. Maple Leaf Foods' company-owned barns produce approximately 40 percent of the pigs that the company uses annually to produce its branded pork products.
Gestation crates are individual stalls in which pregnant pigs are confined during the 78-day gestation period to ensure their safety, but concerns have been raised about their impact on welfare and natural behaviour. A 2013 survey conducted by Humane Society International–Canada revealed that 84 per cent of Canadians supported elimination of gestation crates.
As part of the company's commitment to world-class animal care, Maple Leaf Foods' animal care team studied housing and feeding systems around the world and combined the best practices it observed into the company's unique Advanced Open Sow Housing. Maple Leaf Foods said it system differs from other open sow housing systems by not just opening or removing gestation crates, but rather by creating housing areas with various spaces that support sows' desires to choose when to play, to socialize, to eat and to rest. The unique open system also helps Maple Leaf Foods team members to observe the sows more readily as they move about, monitor their health more accurately and provide optimal care.
The Maple Leaf Foods Advanced Open Sow Housing System offers additional comforts, including:
Electronic sow feeders
Cool water misters during the hot summer months
Bright LED lighting
Windows for natural light
Night lights for those sows who choose to feed at night.
"Ensuring the animals in our care experience the best possible environment at Maple Leaf Foods, is the right thing to do and an essential part of our sustainability commitment," said Michael McCain, President and CEO. "Our progress in eliminating gestation crates in our sow barns across Canada is a significant milestone as we proudly lead the industry towards a more compassionate approach to animal welfare."
SOURCE Maple Leaf Foods Inc.