Food In Canada

Maple Leaf Foods to complete converting all sow barns to advanced open houses by end of this year

By Food in Canada staff   

Business Operations Meat &Poultry Animal housing animal welfare Editor pick Humane Society International–Canada Maple Leaf Foods Sow barns sustainability

Maple Leaf Foods announces that by the end of 2021, it will complete transitioning all breeding sows in company-owned barns to its advanced open sow housing system.

This system provides “optimized, open housing during pregnancy that allows sows to roam, rest, feed and socialize freely.”

This shift in sow housing represents another milestone in the company’s commitment to better care through advanced animal welfare.

In 2014, Canada’s pork industry committed to ending gestation crate use by 2024. 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 housing system by the end of 2021. Maple Leaf Foods’ company-owned barns produce approximately 40 per cent of the pigs 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 84 per cent of Canadians supported elimination of gestation crates.

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 system. Maple Leaf Foods’ system creates housing areas with various spaces that support sows’ desires to choose when to play, socialize, eat and rest. The 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.

“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 toward a more compassionate approach to animal welfare.”

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