by SUSAN MANN
In the wake of a recent announcement by another fast food restaurant chain outlining its requirements for pork sourced from gestation stall-free pigs, farmers are waiting for the release of the pig care and handling code to give clarity on what society expects of them.
The code is expected to be released later in the spring.
Mary Jane Quinn, Ontario Pork manager of communications and consumer marketing, says the recent announcement by Wendy’s International L.L.C. requiring suppliers to follow strict monitoring protocols in connection with pork products is the latest in a string of announcements by restaurants and food service operators. The companies all have different requirements and different timelines for suppliers to meet and that’s confusing for farmers. In Wendy’s case, raw material and finished product suppliers are being required to submit quarterly progress reports outlining the percentage of stall-free pork they’re supplying to the fast food chain.
But when the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs comes out, “I think that’s going to give people a little more guidance in terms of the direction that farmers are going to want to do,” Quinn says.
Wendy’s officials couldn’t be reached for comment.
Quinn says the Wendy’s announcement is directed at the whole value chain, so likely it will be farmers along with processors and food service operators that will have to complete the reports.
As for the pig code, there might be dates spelled out (as there were in the draft document released for public comment last summer) that will specify when certain practices have to be installed. Such a timeline will help farmers “set some sort of course of action” and help them “know what they should be doing,” she says.
Still, it’s not known if the new code will be consistent with what the restaurants have announced, she says. If it isn’t, “I don’t know what that means. Are they (the restaurant chains) just going to stop buying pork altogether because they can’t get it (to their exact specifications) by the date they’ve said?”
Wendy’s says on its website recent announcements by two suppliers that currently make up the majority of its raw pork materials business have given the company confidence “we will continue to make progress towards our goal of eliminating the use of sow gestation stalls in our supply chain by the end of 2022.”
Quinn didn’t know how much pork Wendy’s sources from Ontario or Canada. Wendy’s didn’t name the two suppliers in its website announcement. But Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods, major U.S. pork producers, both recently announced actions to shift their contract farmers away from the use of gestation stalls.
Since 2007, Wendy’s has given preferential buying to suppliers who adopt an ongoing plan to phase out single sow gestation stalls.
“We believe that confining pigs in gestation stalls is not sustainable over the long term and moving away from that practice is the right thing to do,” Wendy’s says on its website.
The National Farm Animal Care Council has coordinated work on the pig code since its development began in 2010. The code development committee, made up of farmers, pork industry representatives, enforcement, animal welfare and government officials, met most recently in January to continue evaluating the more than 4,700 submissions received as part of the public comment period.
Jackie Wepruk, council general manager and project coordinator, says the development committee is on track to release the finalized code by this spring. Details aren’t being released before the final code is made public, but she says the committee “has arrived at what they believe will be a code that producers can implement, that addresses animal welfare in a realistic fashion and gets us down the road on meeting societal animal welfare expectations.”
The codes of practice set out national guidelines for the care and handling of farm animals. They promote sound management and welfare through recommendations and requirements for housing, transportation, processing and other animal husbandry practices. BF