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The nationwide grocery store chain Safeway Inc. (SWY) announced plans Monday to eventually sell pork that comes from farms that do not confine breeding sows into small crates known as gestation stalls.
Safeway's announcement comes after recent declarations by McDonald's Corp. (MCD) and Burger King Corp. to get the pork they serve from farms that don't use the crates. But the Safeway decision represents the first of the largest U.S. grocery chains to make the commitment.
Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM), a smaller, but also nationwide chain, does not sell pork from suppliers that use the crates and hasn't done so in about 10 years, a spokeswoman said.
The commitment from Safeway, with its 1,678 stores in the U.S. and Canada, is substantial for those who believe the use of the gestation stall are inhumane because the company is the fifth-largest grocery retailer in the U.S.
The stalls are narrow two-feet-wide cages used to confine breeding sows, which bear offspring that are slaughtered to make pork products. Breeding sows often cannot turn around in the narrow stalls and are limited to standing up or sitting down.
There are currently about 5.8 million breeding sows in pork production operation in the U.S., according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
"Safeway's decision to move away from gestation crates is welcome and encouraging news," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the U.S. "Given the scope and quantity of pork products sold by Safeway, this announcement is an important step in addressing animal welfare in the company's supply chain."
It may be years before the Safeway switch is complete, company spokesman Brian Dowling said, but Safeway decided to make the plan public after getting word from some of its suppliers were making headway in producing pork without the crates.
"Our company supports the efforts of our suppliers who have committed to reductions in their use of gestation stalls," Dowling said.
-By Bill Tomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088; email@example.com