Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

No Gestation Crates for Our Pigs

In the last few weeks, there’s been a lot of hype in the press surrounding several large companies committing to phasing out gestation crates at their pig facilities by 2017; we think this is very encouraging news.

At Whole Foods Market®, we’ve prohibited the use of both gestation and farrowing crates by all of our pork suppliers since 2003. While it’s good to see more companies finally jumping on the bandwagon, it can’t happen soon enough, in our opinion! Gestation crates or sow stalls confine sows throughout their pregnancy (almost 4 months).

The crates typically measure 7 feet by 2 feet, which only allows enough room for the pregnant sow to get up and lie down — she can never turn around. So why are gestation crates used at all? Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, demand for cheaper meat essentially forced most farmers to raise hogs in barns so that they could produce more pork without having to increase their farm size.

By keeping sows in individual stalls, farmers can monitor how much each sow is eating, determine if a sow is getting sick, prevent sows from fighting each other and provide more individualized care. (Farrowing crates are used when sows deliver piglets; sows are kept in farrowing crates for about 2 to 3 weeks until the piglets are weaned).

Over the last 20 years or so, animal welfare scientists have proven that not only do sows in crates and stalls show abnormal repetitive behaviors such as bar chewing — repeated chewing on the metal bar directly in front of the sow indicating boredom and frustration — but they can go into a state of learned helplessness or apathy.

Additionally, they are prone to leg problems due to inactivity. But not all pig farmers raise their sows this way! At Whole Foods Market, our pork suppliers are audited every 15 months to the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Program.

Third party inspectors verify that no crates or stalls (gestation or farrowing) are used to manage or raise pigs as well as verify over 110 other animal welfare standards. Rather than use crates or stalls, our farmers keep sows in groups during their pregnancy so they have the freedom to move around and choose where they want to lie down.

You can read more about step-rated pork in this blog post. We can’t wait for more companies to join us and phase out gestation and farrowing crates.

Tell us what you think!

Photo courtesy of Anne Malleau

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

40 comments

Comments

Dolores MacKenzie says …

I think it's is inhuman to treat pigs or any animal with such disregard because they do feel pain. I shop at Whole Foods because I trust their products.

Becca says …

Vegetarians are consumers just as any other.From seed to table. :) Everything in moderation; over eating of anything can make you sick. I think it is a very wise thing for people to investigate their "food". People,Planet and Animals should be cared for. Best thing to do is not point at anyone. Three fingers usually point back when you do....... The whole food story is stating how they are making a difference. I don't know of another grocery store who has done so much GOOD. I worked for a grocer who paid min. wage, drained the life out of me :( and tried to dictate my purchases back into their own store.(NO not a discount)! Can you imagine what happens to the people and animals during the process of "junk" products they sell!

Henie says …

Yea Whole Foods! It is beliefs/reasons precisely as those in your article above that I choose to shop at your stores. I do what I can to act responsibly toward ALL living creatures (not just people) - and you do the same. Thank you and keep up your most excellent beliefs/values! Henie St. Louis, MO

Maggie L says …

Good job, Whole Foods! Keep up the good work.

Danielle L. Atherton says …

Thank you, Whole Foods, for paying attention to your target market and trying to be true to what you represent. Gene Bauer of Farm Animal Sanctuary and those that support this incredible movement have made this possible by advocating in Washington D.C. to change the inhumane agricultural processing to one that is held with, at least, dignity and better standards of care. Here is the link, if you want to know more! It's incredible...what they do, and what they have done. My entire family supports them, too. Adopt a rescue or stay informed about advocacy. http://farmsanctuary.org/about/leadership.html -Danielle Atherton Licensed Esthetician/Registered Nurse

Ana M. says …

In response to John, March 27: I became a vegetarian 19 years ago, at age 21 when I found out how horrid factory-farming is. I'm not totally against others eating meat now, when meat is "humanely raised". I hope all meat is like that someday soon (sure, that means less meat per carnivore per week, but you'd still be getting meat, right?). And I wish YOU could be placed in a crate for just a few weeks, 24 hrs a day -- You can't move freely, have no TV, have no interaction with others, ETC. ETC. (If u don't have a heart attack by the weekend, go rent the movie Buried, or the Argentine movie The Secret in their Eyes)

Adam says …

I appreciate that Whole Foods has established the standards they have and put a lot of research and effort into the Welfare Rating program. That being said, I also believe the only truly humane choice is to simply not eat animals, and not have them raised them for food. After all, they're still living beings that want only to live, just as we do. They still face the same fate in the end when they are slaughtered. No matter which way you look at it, killing is an inherently violent act, and there is no such thing as humane violence.

Louise Baker says …

Whether vegetable or animal, I am for healthy and safe growing and gathering/slaughtering practices. People who are vegetarians should be watching the farms and or certified organic labels to make sure they are not eating GMO's, pesticides, and hybrids which is another way of taking the God given life properties out of vegetables. Finding anything pure anymore is almost if not completly impossible especially with vegetables as bee's polen goes from crop to crop in natural outddoor setting. So, we make our own choices and do the best we can with what we have. I do not get upset with anyone in their food choices, as, so far it is their choice. Although the current whitehouse administration is wanting to control that in all aspects of our lives. oops, getting off point!

Louise Baker says …

One last point. I will not eat anything that is not certified organic in the meat, poultry, and dairy items in particular. My main concern is antibiotics, pesticides, and horrid unsafe things put in the animals feed.

Wendy says …

I'm with John H

John H says …

I'm doing my part to encourage people to go vegetarian. I'm eating as many pigs, cows, deer, rabbits, fish & fowl as I can, thus reducing the number available for others to eat... and yes, my appetite is by far much more important than the life of some pig or cow... thank you for noticing

Lydia Sugarman says …

Farrowing crates have their place. My dad would place sows going into labor in the crates because they can turn on their piglets and kill and eat them or lie down on them. But, once those dangers were past, usually 2-3 days at most, they were returned to their "normal" life, roaming around with piglets tagging behind.

sonya says …

no offense intended but i think balance is in order here...no. 1..it takes a lot of 'land' to grow veggies and the land used to grow crops is land taken f/the animal habitat! we are by nature and our dna omnivores...like it or not...every hunter-gather group eats meat when ever possible...they live on instinct alone and not 'propaganda'...sorry if i offend some of u but the truth needs to said!

susan says …

well Lydia, you dad must be the exception because most industrial farms have the pigs live their entire breeding lives in gestation crates. I can't even imagine how these (more intelligent than your family dog) animals live without going just plain crazy.

Mel says …

I absolutely love that Whole Foods has partnered with the Global Animal Partnership. I'm so pleased to know where the meat I'm consuming is coming from - and that the animals were treated in a humane way with care and concern. I no longer eat meat that is of unknown origin, and I'm so pleased to support your store and the Global Animal Partnership!! (as well as supporting great farming practices!!) :)

Ramona Ingrassia says …

Why wait until 2017! That means so much more suffering and torture. It's bad enough to be raised to be eaten and that's your purpose on this planet, but to be tortured until then is gastly. If they could have a decent life and enjoy the very short time they have before people gobble them up, why not make it as pleasant as possible and nurturing so they go out in style and in a painless fashion. Is that too much to ask?

Megan says …

@Ramona We agree, why wait? We're proud that at Whole Foods Market we’ve prohibited the use of both gestation and farrowing crates by all of our pork suppliers since 2003. We hope all suppliers and grocers will follow our lead.

David E says …

I have always wondered what the effects are of crating livestock in confided cages. Especially, before supermarket entities sell them to individuals at the market. I am astounded at the potential effects it could have on the pigs and the livestock themselves. I am not an animal activist but this has truly been an educational article. I am also glad to hear that Whole Foods engages in animal welfare practices. This is something I will definitely take into account when buying meat products from Whole Foods as I think it’s wonderful that they provide individualized care for their pigs and livestock. Once again, good job Whole Foods. David E Tulane University Freeman School of Business

Kathy says …

What difference does it make since they will be slaughtered anyway?

Christina says …

I am so happy that WF has been doing this with pork farmers! It's a small step in the right direction that I wish more companies would follow. Now we just have to follow the lead and do the same for all other animals that are caged for production. I think in these times more families are becoming aware of the different ways animals are treated and are making more eco-conscious decisions as to how they purchase meats and whom they purchase meats from. My mom told me, if she knew back in the day what she knows now about factory farming she would have never fed me and my brother meats. It goes to show you how far education regarding our food supply has come.

Eric says …

If the other grocery chains would start a numbering system, like Whole Foods, and explain what it means, then I'm pretty sure more people would be eating humanely-raised meat. Think of it, your big-chain grocer puts a "-5" on their meat, which they tell you means the animal was kept in a crate, never allowed to move around, had to be forced fed and finally bulldozed to the slaughterhouse. That $.99/lb ground beef isn't so appetizing anymore, huh?

Randy says …

How can anyone eat meat? Shame on WF for trying to act like it is responsible. They are one of the biggest reasons factory farms exist. Don't let them lie to you, with the volume of pork they supply in their stores it would be impossible to keep up with demand raising pigs in this way. Such a sham and stock photos.

Megan says …

@Randy — sorry you feel that way. We absolutely do require all of our pork suppliers to be audited every 15 months to the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Program. Third party inspectors verify that no crates or stalls (gestation or farrowing) are used to manage or raise pigs as well as verify over 110 other animal welfare standards. And those pictures are from our team member's visits to farms.

Lilly S. says …

Let's see..I'm on my third bout with breast cancer. Not because I'm overweight, eat junk food or don't exercise, but because my DNA has been tweaked somewhere in my early young life. How? Most likely poisoned by the food bought (and eaten) from the big chain stores. I enter these stores with great apprehension. Checking every label/ingredient of any item I am considering purchasing. Whole Foods is the only place I feel safe. Thank you for doing all the caring for your customers...

Ana M. says …

I was about to tell Ramona: Well said, thank you :) Then I saw that Whole Foods already acknowledged :)

Adele says …

Bless you John H and Wendy........may your double-wide trailers never burn down...and your health issues through poor nutrition never be a burden to the tax payer!

Caitlyn says …

In reply to Kathy's question: "What difference does it make since they will be slaughtered anyway?" Because the animals, who feel pain and suffering just as much as the dogs and cats we treat as pets, are being tortured basically their whole lives. Taken from their mothers soon after birth, raised in cramped and crowded conditions, sometimes never seeing the light of day, or stepping onto grass, in their entire lives, transported to slaughter in cramped conditions, and sometimes, if they collapse in the slaughterhouse, being pushed by a bulldozer to the slaughter line. And this is describing it nicely.

Andrea says …

Thank you , Whole Foods. I became a vegetarian 2 years ago and it was the best decision I ever made. I don't understand why animals are treated this horrible way and way changes don't occur faster. I'm glad you are doing this, but I can't believe these conditions were ever allowed.

Andrea says …

Thank you Caitlyn for your reponse. It is odd to treat pets like family and then treat other animals cruelly. I can't imagine enduring those conditions for even a few hours.

Connie says …

Everyone cannot be vegitarian or vegan. I tried in the 80's and came close to dieing becuase I did not realize I had such a horrid overgrowth of yeast in my colan and sinuses.I had to go back to meat- rotate my diet daily so as not to aquire food allergis, get rid of any yeast containing foods (leavened bread0, get rid of most fruits (they propogate yeast) and have a prescription of nystain as well as a gazillion supplements daily- for at least a 6 month period of time. I will always be subsetable to this and I and going vegaterinn for what? I respect my vegan daughter and other vegans and vegatarins but please don't shove it on people- eveyone can not do it and live a healthy life.

Lindsey says …

How about encouraging people to go vegetarian, and then they won't have to worry about if their "food" was humanely raised. It's sad that so many people think their appetite is more important than a sentient being's right to life.

Gina says …

Very encouraging article. I think I be shopping at Whole Food more, and not shop other stores that are not leaving gestation crates a part of the past, even though I do not eat pork.

Karen Taylor says …

I was told that Whole Foods need a few pig producers to raise pork for them .. If you still need some pig producers can you please tell me how and were to fill out a application ? I've been raising pigs for over 30 years I have never used a farrowing crates please let me know if you still need producers . Thank you Karen Taylor

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KAREN - You can find info on how to become a vendor at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company-info/information-potential-vendors. Best of luck!

SUE SCHERN says …

WE ARE ONLY REALLY DESTROYING OURSELVES BY THIS DISRESPECT FOR ALL LIFE... 2017 IS REALLY TO FAR OFF... I HAVE BEEN PART OF A HUMANE FARMING MOVEMENT FOR ALMOST 26 YEARS.. AND SO LITTLE HAS COME OF IT.. THANK YOU WHOLE FOODS FOR BEING A PART OF THE SOLUTION.. SUE SCHERN

Carrie Addleman says …

Thank you for the commitment in taking care of farm animals the right way.

Stephanie P says …

Thank you so much!!!

Tacy Currey says …

Actually we usually use the gestation crates the last 2 weeks of gestation and for a month with piglets to access to help during farrowing, to reduce crushing deaths of the babies, and supervision for health treatments or vaccinations within the first month of life.

pat quellhorst says …

God bless your humanity. I have been a vegetarian for six months, after educating myself how animals are being treated. So many people turn a blind eye. I'm not ready yet to go back to meat as the pictures of the chickens, turkeys and pigs has left an imprint on my mind I can't forget. Thank you for caring

Matt Fleagle says …

I'm glad to finally find this statement from Whole Foods, but I'm dismayed that before I found it, I wrote to your supplier Wellshire Farms twice (12/7/15 and 1/29/16) to inquire about their policy on gestation crates and received no reply in three months (I wrote to Wellshire Farms because your deli staff did not have an answer). Their refusal to reply -- I emailed them at the info@ address supplied on their contact page -- is disrespectful but also troubling. I figured if the news was good they'd tell me right away, and if it was not good they'd already have some statement prepared. I have boycotted your Black Forest Ham since December while awaiting resolution of this issue, and if what I'm reading here is true, there was no need for them to be cagey about their practices. I'm still miffed about it and I'm not sure that I'll return to supporting their products. In the end, though, I'm less concerned how they've treated me than how they treat their pigs.