Cargill changing hog production facilities

By Dan Voorhis

The Wichita Eagle

(MCT) Cargill is continuing its move toward group housing in the facilities where it raises sows to produce hogs for pork.

Cargill's facilities will have only group housing by the end of next year, and the farms with which Cargill contracts for hog production will have only group housing by the end of 2017.

Animal activist groups have pushed for the change industry-wide, saying open housing is more humane than the smaller gestation crates that are common in the industry. Group housing allows the sows to move around and interact.

"Over the past two years, many of our retail, foodservice and food processing customers have made decisions about future sourcing of pork products from suppliers that use group housing for gestating sows," Mike Luker, president of Wichita-based Cargill Pork, said in a statement. "While Cargill was a pioneer in the use of group housing for gestating sows dating back more than a decade, in the past few years growing public interest in the welfare related to animals raised for food has been expressed to our customers and the pork industry.

Cargill Pork, based in Wichita, is one of the largest pork producers in the U.S.

"Both group housing and individual housing have pros and cons, and we continue to learn, and evolve best practices from our transition to group housing," Luker said in his statement. "While an industry change of this magnitude is challenging and costly, we believe it is the right thing to do for the long term future of pork production in the U.S., and our customers agree with us and support our decision. Nevertheless, we need to be mindful that many family farms involved with raising hogs have their life savings invested in their operations and it will require time and other resources if they choose to make a conversion to group housing."

(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle