Maple Leaf Foods to complete conversion to open housing systems

All company sow barns will be converted to advanced open housing systems in 2021
calendar icon 23 November 2021
clock icon 4 minute read

Maple Leaf said the housing system provides optimised, open housing during pregnancy that allows sows to roam, rest, feed and socialise freely. Maple Leaf said the shift underlines its commitment to better care through advanced animal welfare.

Canada's pork industry committed to ending the use of gestation crates use by 2024. Maple Leaf Foods signed the agreement in 2014 but set an ambitious timeline to convert all its owned Maple Leaf Agri-Farms sow barns to a new Advanced Open Sow Housing System by the end of 2021.

Maple Leaf Foods' company-owned barns produce approximately 40% of the pigs that the company uses annually to produce its branded pork products.

Gestation crates are individual stalls in which pregnant sows are confined during the 78-day gestation period to ensure their safety. Concerns have been raised about their impact on welfare, as they inhibit the sow's natural behaviour.

Maple Leaf Foods said its animal care team studied housing and feeding systems around the world and combined the best observed practices in the development of the company's own system, Advanced Open Sow Housing. The system offers housing areas with various spaces that support the sows' desired to play, socialise, eat and rest.

The open system helps Maple Leaf Foods Team Members to observe the sows more easily as they move about. There they can monitor health and provide optimal care.

The housing system offers additional comforts, including electronic sow feeders, cool water misters for use in hotter temperatures, windows for natural light, bright LED lighting, and night lights for those sows who choose to feed at night.

"Ensuring the animals in our care experience the best possible environment at Maple Leaf Foods is the right thing to do and an essential part of our sustainability commitment," said Michael McCain, President and CEO. "Our progress in eliminating gestation crates in our sow barns across Canada is a significant milestone as we proudly lead the industry towards a more compassionate approach to animal welfare."

Melanie Epp

Melanie Epp is a freelance agricultural journalist from Ontario, Canada.

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