Sysco Responds to Our Customers

At Sysco, we promote and support animal-handling best practices. We also listen closely to our customers. For example, while sows can be housed in numerous ways, several customers and suppliers want to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chain, so Sysco is taking steps to address their concerns.

Currently, Sysco’s pork supply is derived from hogs farrowed by sows in both individual and open housing systems. The current body of knowledge, supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, industry experts, and animal scientists, indicates that both individual and group housing systems are suitable from an animal welfare standpoint for sows and that both are sustainable when properly managed.

To address animal welfare in the long term, advantages of current housing systems should be retained while making improvements in design to overcome any identified problems. For example, many pig farmers are opting to adopt alternate housing practices in place of gestation stalls, while genetics and breed selection could promote good sow welfare by matching animals to the appropriate housing system.

Sysco announced in 2012 the desire to transition to group housing for our pork supply chain. In the meantime, our Quality Assurance Department personnel, five of whom are certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO), are verifying proper animal handling practices at Sysco Brand supplier harvest facilities. Handling practices are also being verified on pork and poultry farms where the animals are raised.

Ultimately, sows are kept best by farmers who hold their animals’ welfare as a topmost priority. Paul Sundberg, a veterinarian and Vice President of the U.S. National Pork Producers Council, told The Washington Post: “Farmers treat their animals well because that's just good business. The key to sow welfare isn't whether they are kept in individual crates or group housing, but whether the system used is well managed.”1

While each system has its advantages, Sysco is committed to working with suppliers to create group housing supply systems for the good of all. We choose to work with pork suppliers who are willing to consider additional methods, and we are working with them to develop a timeline to achieve this ambitious long-term goal.

At Sysco, we care about making the best choices for our animal livestock handling and work with suppliers who share the same beliefs.

1. Source: Kaufmann, Marc. "In Pig Farming, Growing Concern, Raising Sows in Crates Is Questioned," The Washington Post, June 2001.

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