Starting in the early 2000s, some states began adopting new standards for the housing of pregnant sows, which required phasing out the use of individual gestation stalls. Several states are in the process of transitioning to these new requirements for sows raised in the state and/or pork sold in the state regardless of where it was sourced. Wendy’s also began studying the issue more closely, and in 2012 announced a goal to eliminate this practice in our supply chain, consistent with the State of Ohio’s recently announced guidance on eliminating gestation stalls as The Wendy’s Company is headquartered in Ohio.
At that time, Ohio had clearly defined and published guidance for sow housing systems, which was created with input and agreement by the agriculture community, animal welfare advocates and government representatives. Ohio’s guidance was also outlined in a 2010 agreement that was signed by the Governor, multiple state agricultural producer groups and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). In 2010-11, Ohio announced its new expectations for the housing of sows with a 15-year implementation timeline through 2025. We set our own goal ahead of this timeline, committing to transition pork in our North American supply chain away from individual sow gestation stalls in favor of open pen/group housing for confirmed pregnant sows by the end of 2022.
A sow is first bred at around 32 weeks of age (and is called a gilt until it births its first litter), and consistent with Ohio's guidance, there are two time periods in a breeding sow's life when it may not be housed in an open pen/group housing:
- First, when the sow (or gilt) is being bred through artificial insemination, it may be housed in an individual pen until pregnancy is confirmed (a period that our suppliers report is typically 4-6 weeks). This is done to best ensure the embryos attach and remain intact, promoting a successful pregnancy.1 After pregnancy is confirmed, the sow, which is now a gestating sow, is returned to open pen/group housing for the duration of pregnancy (a period that our suppliers report is typically 10-12 weeks).
- Second, shortly before giving birth, the sow is moved to a farrowing stall where it gives birth and remains with its piglets until they are weaned from the sow (a period that our suppliers report is typically about 3 weeks). A farrowing stall is designed to keep the piglets warm and safe and prevent the sow from laying on her newborn piglets. Once the piglets are weaned, they typically become market hogs, although some become breeding sows or boars.
1This approach is consistent with Rule 901:12-8-02 promulgated under the Ohio Administrative Code, which provides that breeding/gestation stalls may be used post weaning for a period of time that seeks to maximize embryonic welfare and allows for the confirmation of pregnancy. Similarly, the 2010 agreement between Ohio’s agricultural community and HSUS also stated “It is understood that in all housing systems, sows may be housed in breeding/gestation stalls until they are confirmed pregnant.”