Gestation Stalls and a Better Future for Sow Housing

Today, McDonald’s made an announcement which outlines further actions we plan to take to help end the use of gestation stalls for sows (mothers of baby pigs) in the U.S. 


Gestation Stalls and a Better Future for Sow Housing

by Community Manager on ‎02-13-2012 08:45 AM - last edited on ‎01-11-2013 09:16 AM by Community Manager

Today, McDonald’s made an announcement which outlines further actions we plan to take to help end the use of gestation stalls for sows (mothers of baby pigs) in the U.S. 

This action builds upon our long track record of leadership in overall sustainability efforts.


Gestation stalls are currently the predominant housing system used in the U.S. sow industry.     When we look at their use through a broad sustainability lens, there are a number pros and cons to consider. Of course, the aspect that most people would think of first relates to animal welfare. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you really have to evaluate all social and environmental impacts. This is why we work with outside experts like our Animal Welfare Team. 


When we first started working with this set of preeminent experts in the early 2000s, we sought their input on what future steps we should take on this issue.  Simply put, they advised us that gestation stalls are too confining and restrictive, and they encouraged us to work with our suppliers to support and promote alternatives to their use.   


Since then, we have been collaborating with some of our key suppliers to act upon this advice, and progress has been made, especially with Smithfield Foods and Cargill. However, more needs to be done. Hence, the announcement we are making today.


We know this is a significant change that will require substantial effort over an extended period of time. Our own Animal Welfare Council member, Dr. Temple Grandin, has noted the need for a well thought-out and thorough plan to successfully undertake a transition of this magnitude. Our suppliers will need to consider a number of factors, including the training of animal handlers, proper feeding systems and a number of other logistical issues.


In addition to our Animal Welfare Council, we’ll also continue to engage with other stakeholders who share our commitment to animal welfare. This enables us to see all sides of the issue, from multiple perspectives. For example, we’ve been in dialogue with the Humane Society of the United States frequently over the past several years, and they have voiced their support of today’s announcement.


That said, we are fully committed to ending gestation stall use in our U.S. pork supply, and we will work closely with our suppliers to determine what a feasible action plan will entail.

On a personal note, McDonald’s menu items like the Egg McMuffin and Sausage Biscuit are some of my personal favorites. Knowing they come from responsible and sustainable production systems is a vital “ingredient.”


At McDonald’s, ensuring the humane treatment of animals in our supply chain is a key priority. We’re committed to continuously improving animal welfare practices in our supply chain and working together with our suppliers who do so much to provide safe, quality, affordable, and responsibly-sourced food.    

Bob Langert.jpg

by Shawn Koehler(anon) on ‎02-14-2012 06:38 AM
Mr. Langert, As a consumer of McDonalds, and being raised on a hog farm myself, this topic raises a lot of interest to me. I hope that your realize the depth of the impact that a decision like this makes on entire world. My number one concern is to see that a NGO such as the humane society impacts your decision. The reason for this concern is sustainability. As farmers are challenged to produce more food in the next 50 years than what was produced in the next 10,000 years combined. I do hope that your decisions do not end up with a reduction in food supply and increasing world hunger. That being said, I do not believe that this decision does this. The gestation period of a sow (or gilt) is about 3 month, 3 weeks, 3 days; through professional record keeping, most farmers should be able to move a sow (or gilt) into a farrowing crate within a few dates of birth, and this is where crating must occur. The reason for farrowing crates is to protect the litter and allow the farmers to have access to them. I have seen this not happen before and without farrowing crates you can expect half of the piglets to die resulting in a decrease in food supply globally. Gestation crates never seemed necessary to me thus I believe this action is fair and will not slow down the net food supply. I am not a farmer today, nor have any personal interests in any hog operations, but I am concerned with feeding an increasingly hungry world. It seems you have done good research with this Thank you, Shawn
by Kenneth Pelton(anon) on ‎02-14-2012 07:58 PM

Thank you, McDonald's, for forcing your pork vendors to abandon gestation crates. That was an honorable move on your part. Thanks you! Thank you! Thank you!


Ken Pelton

2995 East Budd Drive

Cooper City, FL 33026

by Pamela Aldinger(anon) on ‎02-15-2012 10:45 AM

I got an email regarding McDonald's position of not purchasing pork from pregnant pigs kept in small cages.

I did not know you were a company that was doing that, but am extremely joyful that you have stopped it.  You are the only fast food I purchase and I have always been impressed with the Ronald Mcdonald House.  Thank you for saving pregnant pigs from torture, because that is exactly what it is.  The reasons why pigs are kept in those crates  are bogus.   When under terrible stress animals produce hormones(just like every other living creature) that  may affect the quality of the meat.


Pamela Aldinger

by livestock2012(anon) on ‎02-17-2012 01:22 PM

I am disappointed that the McDonald's Corporation has chosen to  take sides on an animal production issue that they do not understand. They are being swayed by animal activist groups that have one goal and that to eliminate the production of meat and consumption by people. So put that in your vegetarian Happy Meal and see how far it goes. Animal agriculture has spent years working with engineers and production specialist to design the facilities that are in use today. I am that they will continue to work to improve the facility design and improve how animals are housed and cared for. But to force producers to go BACK to housing systems that are detrimental to the health of these animals is irresponsible on the part of this company. McDonald's and their animal welfare committee is notorious for putting restraints on US suppliers but then buying foreign meat that they have no idea whether it meets these same requirement s or not. Support animal scientists and engineers in finding a system that is better do not use your retail power to force the HSUS agenda. It may backfire on you as people go elsewhere for their sausage biscuit


by Jennie Schmidt(anon) on ‎02-17-2012 07:20 PM

You mention HSUS frequently as "experts" and your Animal Welfare Council is devoid of farmers. Seems to be a one-sided conversation taking place. Here are my thoughts on the issue:

by Terry Huseth(anon) on ‎03-22-2012 08:36 PM

I have been involved in agriculture my entire life.  I was raised on a cattle ranch and taught to care for and about my parent's cattle herd.  They were treated with respect, as they provided our family's living.  My father insisted on no yelling, no cattle prods and we used horses went working around the cattle. 


We also raised hogs.  They were allowed to be what today is called 'free range'.  In that system the strong survive, the small don't and many animals were injured by their peers.  In addition, the meat was not as good as what is produced today.  But, my main point is that the animals, as with humans, had a pecking order and the strong ruled.  By moving away from gestation crates you are going to go back toward that 'natural' selection process. 


Since growing up and graduating college and later receiving my MBA, I have worked in the agricultural lending industry.  For over 20 of my 39 years in the industry I have worked directly with farmers and ranchers.  The vast majority of them care very much for the environment, including the land and their animals.  Again that is what provides there living. 

McDonald's recent decision regarding gestation crates is not a good decision.  To me it is a decision based on pressure from ultra-liberal groups who really just want to get their way.


I have been a McDonalds customer for over 40 years.  Today that ends.  I will no longer spend any of my food dollars at a McDonalds.  I normally have at least 2 meals a week at McDonalds, so that is 2 less meals per week you will sell. 


Sustainability?  I don't see what you are forcing on your growers as having anything to do with sustainability.  Good luck, as I believe the majority of those who you are giving in to likely wouldn't lower themselves to eat at McDonalds anyway. 

by nlites09 on ‎03-22-2012 08:59 PM

I am writing in response to McDonald's decision to force their hog growers to discontinue the use of gestation crates for sows.


I was raised on a cattle ranch and taught at a very young age to respect my parent's cow herd and treat them with honor and respect.  We did not yell at them, we did not use cattle prods, when we worked with the cattle it was done on horseback.  My father insisted on this.  One time a trucker didn't live up to my father's rules, a bull ran through fence at a full gallup and didn't stop for a mile.  The trucker was never allowed on our ranch again.


We also raised hogs.  They were raised under what today would be referred to as the 'free range' hog system.  In that situation, the strong survive, the small die and many are injured by their peers.  Today's hog producers are much more sophisticated and provide the public with a much better product.


After growing up and graduating college, I have been involved in the agricultural lending industry for over 38 years.  Over 20 of those years, including the past 12, have been spent working directly with farmers and ranchers.  The vast majority of those care as much for their land and animals as my father did.  Organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States care more about eliminating meat from our diets and controlling our lives than anything else.  The fact that McDonalds is working hand in hand with this organization greatly disturbs me.


I have been a McDonalds customer for over 40 years, eating at least 2 meals a week at your restaurants.  Today that ends.  I will no longer support your organization because of your decision regarding gestation crates.  You may not miss two less meals sold per week, but I will make my own statement. 


Please take note that the Humane Society of the United States is NOT the same as our local Humane Society shelters.  It is a far different organization, but uses its name to garner support and donations from dog and cat lovers who do not realize there is no connection between the two organizations.  That is who you are now in bed with.  Good luck.


by pbaker(anon) on ‎05-07-2012 04:11 PM

I applaud McDonalds for taking a stand on the most egregious practices in factory farming. I'm not a vegetarian but I do care how the animals I eat were raised. Battery cages for egg-laying hens and gestation crates for pregnant sows are inhumane by almost anyones standards. Why else would those companies fight so hard to keep the public from seeing inside their facilities? Thank you, McDonalds, for being an example of how major corporations can care about the environment and animal welfare.

by Community Manager on ‎05-11-2012 11:45 AM

Hi pbaker,


Thanks for your comments. We’re committed to the welfare of animals in our supply chain and collaborate with experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin to continuously improve animal handling practices. The issues are more complex than many realize, especially when viewed through a holistic sustainability lens. So we are always focused on adopting a science-based approach. 


Thank you. 

by Joyce on ‎06-02-2012 05:24 PM

I too applaud McDonald's for taking a stand against hog confinements.  I am so sad for the animals.  But I challenge everyone to read the research on what hog confinements do to human health for those living within 3 miles of a hog confinement building--   what it does to the socioeconomic conditions--  what it does to property values.

Read work done by Dr. Peter Thorne, Toxicologist at the University of Iowa  --    Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (  This research will open your eyes to how bad hog confinements are for every living thing.

We must STOP such a crazy way of raising hogs.  It is the national corporations that are making the money and destroying communities in the process.  And our state government condones it, all because of money.  When government upholds money higher than human and social health, we are in trouble.  We are in trouble.


Joyce Otto

by Madison(anon) on ‎06-04-2012 12:19 PM

After reading the comments on this post, I can see that positive and negative aspects of eliminating gestation stalls.


I will not pretend to know the logistics of farming. I only know what I have read.


I understand that as big corporations gravitate toward the elimination of gestation stalls, many farmers who's livelihood depends on the products they produce will be strained. I'm not sure what this will do to the economy or the farming industry. But, I am sure there will be a big impact. Either farmers will have to convert, or they will be put out of business.


On the other hand, I do agree that this method of caging is inhumane. I believe this style of living for a sow undoubtedly affects the quality of the young and meat produced. As a consumer of McDonald's products I am happy that the meat being served is of better quality.


Thank you,


by Carol(anon) on ‎12-01-2012 08:55 AM

Thank you for taking a leadership position on the elimination of gestation crates. No one needs to be a professional farmer to watch the agony these devices cause innocent and intelligent animals. Just go to YouTube. I have faith in the ingenuity of our professional farmers large and small that they can breed and produce a quality meat product that treats the animals humanely throughout their lives. Thanks for taking the these important steps.

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About the Author


As Vice President of Sustainability, Bob contributes to the advancement of a wide range of social and environmental policies and programs. Bob has been a member of the McDonald’s System for more than 30 years, first working with one of our suppliers and then joining McDonald’s in 1983. Throughout the past three decades, Bob’s passion for creating shared value for society and our company through the integration of sustainability practices into the core of the business has been a key ingredient of McDonald’s continued progress along the “Road to Sustainability.”

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