Verification System Needed to Ensure Promises Related to Sow Housing are Met

Farmscape for June 27, 2012   (Episode 4183)

An agricultural economist with the University of Missouri suggests some type of verification system will be needed to ensure retailers who promise their pork is sourced from farms that use open pen sow housing are keeping those promises.

In response to demands for eliminating gestation stalls the University of Missouri, on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council, surveyed U.S. pork production firms with over one thousand sows to determine the percentage of sows currently housed in open pen gestation and the percentage expected to be housed in open pen gestation two years from now.

The 70 firms that responded indicated only about 17 percent of their sows are housed in open pen gestation today and they expect that number to increase to 23 percent two years from now.

University of Missouri extension economist Dr. Ron Plain notes some retailers have been talking about requiring that their pork comes from operations that use open pen gestation and there's a concern as to whether the industry will actually be able to deliver on this.

Clip-Dr. Ron Plain-University of Missouri:
With respect to that 17 percent number in open pen gestation now, that wasn't 17 percent of the firms with 100 percent.

It was made up of a lot of firms with varying degrees of sow housing and we have to come up with some sort of system to track the pork delivered to a restaurant or to a grocery store back to the farm and the type of facility those sows were housed in if these retailers are going to be able to make some sort of claim to their customers.

That is something that's really not much of anything happening on.

We find that a number of firms are implementing some open pen gestation but there's really not a tracking verification system in place to make sure that consumers are getting what some retailers are saying they're going to deliver.

Dr. Plain says it's not good for retailers or producers if we confuse customers or promise things that we can't yet deliver.

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork Council