Calgary Co-op weighs stall-free pork

Tuesday Apr 30 2013

Calgary Co-op is the latest food company casting a critical eye on the use of gestation stalls in the pork sector -- but the company is working with Alberta Pork before taking action.

Co-op members passed a non-binding resolution last month that would see the company stop selling pork from farms using the stalls within five years.

The move needs the approval of the co-op's board, but company officials have met with Alberta Pork and won't make any hasty decisions, said Cindy Drummond, the co-op's communications manager.

"We support the industry and the safe treatment of animals, and I think the pork producers are saying the same thing," she said.

If the no-stall resolution is implemented, the co-op will look at a reasonable time frame before it stops selling pork from those farms in its 24 stores, she said.

The executive director of Alberta Pork commended the company for taking a level-headed approach, and said he hopes the public will pay attention when a draft of a new national code of practice for pork producers comes out in June.

"It's based on science, not on emotion," said Darcy Fitzgerald.

Although the public may be skeptical, producers are truly committed to using the most humane production practices available, he said.

"I know we always say economics and welfare don't go together -- but they really do," said Fitzgerald. "I mean, it's in the best interest to have the best animals and the healthiest animals."

He noted group housing was once the norm, and gestation stalls were adopted in order to reduce aggression in herds and ensure every pig had adequate water and food.

"There's problems in both systems. It all comes down to management," Fitzgerald said.

Much of the opposition to stalls is coming from people opposed to animal agriculture. It's also coming at a time when it's tough for producers to afford changes to their production systems.

"It's much easier in a climate where you're actually making money," Fitzgerald said. "Our guys are probably losing $35 a pig and they're being asked to make more changes."

-- Victoria Paterson is a reporter for Alberta Farmer in Calgary. This article appears in the April 29 issue.

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