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McDonald’s pork provider Smithfield pledges gestation crate phase-out

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After outcry over its treatment of pigs, the world’s largest pork supplier Smithfield Foods Inc. said Thursday that it would phase out gestation crates for pregnant sows.

The Smithfield, Va.-based company, which supplies meat for McDonald’s McRib sandwiches, said during a conference call with investors that it would stop using the small, movement-restricting metal cages by 2017.

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That puts Smithfield back on track for a vow to ban the crates that the company first made in 2007 but then delayed in 2009 as it struggled with recession-related pressure. Executives said that 30% of sows will be in group housing rather than the crates by the end of the year.

Last month, the Humane Society of the United States filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing Smithfield of duping consumers by claiming it didn’t abuse its pigs. The animal advocacy group said Thursday that it supports the company’s newest move.

November brought several animal cruelty claims against major food providers. McDonald’s and Target both abandoned egg supplier Sparboe Egg Farms after undercover footage from nonprofit advocacy group Mercy for Animals showed maltreatment of hens and chicks at farm facilities.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

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