Clarified – What are gestation crates?
June 6th, 2012
10:15 PM ET
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In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology and issues we're attempting to do the same.

This little piggie is bred for market. This little piggie can't turn her body around. That's about to change.

The term "gestation crates" has been trotted out across news media and social networks over the course of the last few months as major corporations declared plans to phase out their use, but what exactly are they and why is their use so controversial?

What are gestation crates?

There are approximately 5.8 million breeding sows living on pig farms across the United States, according to the USDA, and 60 to 70 percent of them spend the majority of their lives in metal-sided stalls that are two feet wide and seven feet long. They are pregnant for most of their lifespan and then moved to a farrowing stall to give birth.

Food and water is provided to the sows while they're in the stalls, but they have a very limited range of motion. The animal may flop down on her side, but she cannot turn around.

Op-ed: Jane Velez-Mitchell – Get rid of gestation crates NOW

Why are gestation crates used?

The industry began moving from group pens to individual sow housing in the 1960s, but it wasn't until the 1990s that it became standard practice. Dr. Paul Sundberg, the National Pork Board's Vice President of Science and Technology says that sows are aggressive, competitive animals, and if they are made to live in a contained group situation, they will fight for food, shelter and space.

Twenty to thirty years ago, producers keeping their pigs in group housing had to have a certain skill set, financial resources and quantity of land and personnel to manage their herd. Producers found that individual housing negates the issue of aggression, and the physical structure of the crates makes it easier to manage the herd, and requires fewer resources while allowing the animals to thrive, says Sundberg. Other studies contest that theory.

How do sows fare under those circumstances?

Dr. Sundberg says that science is on the side of the farmers. The industry uses three major measures in combination to assess animal welfare: an assessment of her physiology (white blood cell activity, hormone levels), behavior (interaction with her environment) and production (number of times giving birth and pigs per litter).

The evaluation method was developed by scientists at Texas Tech University and in Australia, and scientists and veterinarians at the American Veterinary Medical Association. By their standards, the welfare of sows in gestation crates is equal to that of those raised in group pens that do not inhibit mobility.

Matthew Prescott, Food Policy Director for the Humane Society of the United States, argues that these measures are not enough. He says, "It doesn't take a scientist to look at a situation where an animal is crammed in such a tight space, they can't even turn their own body around - just maybe shift a little to the left or the right. We know that farmers can do better."

While these circumstances aren't necessarily seen as egregious an abuse as the piglet throwing, wound neglect and anesthetic-free castration and tail amputation that the Humane Society uncovered and recorded at a pig farm in Wyoming, Prescott believes that the housing is symptomatic of a "culture of cruelty" within a segment of the pork industry. He believes that their resistance to outside input is based on an "archaic philosophy" that the only people who should have any say in how animals are treated are those who have the animal.

"24 hours a day, seven days a week for your whole life adds up to a lot of suffering," he says.

Famed animal scientist Temple Grandin likens tenure in a gestation crate to a life-long sentence in a first-class airplane seat. "You could maybe turn over on your side," she says, "and there's someone bringing you food and water and everything you need, but you can't move." The pigs not emerge unscathed, she says, "They can feel fear and pain."

Grandin agrees with Prescott - and with Sundberg - that innovative solutions should and will come from farmers.

What are major food corporations asking of pig farmers?

Since February, major fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King, Denny's and Wendy's as well as the nation's two largest grocery story chains, Safeway and Kroger have publicly announced that they will join earlier adopters including Chipotle, Whole Foods and Wolfgang Puck in phasing out gestation crate pork from their supply chains. The change will not be immediate; most plans call for suppliers to adhere to a ten-year transition timeline.

Smithfield and Hormel, two of the country's leading pork producers, have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.

Eight states, have passed laws to ban the use of gestation crates. Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island have bills pending, and earlier this week, New Jersey state senators proposed a bill that would prohibit, "crating, confining or tethering a gestating sow in order to prevent the free range of motion."

The change, Sundberg, Prescott and Grandin agree, is inevitable - and some worry it will come at a cost.

What will the burden be on the farmers?

A transition to group housing could be cost-prohibitive to a farmer, fears Sundberg, and it's very producer-specific. The price of conversion to a different system is based on a number of factors: the depreciation schedule of the equipment a farmer has; cost of facilities, land, management, production and labor; and changes in feed and productivity.

"It could cost millions to convert an average-sized farm," he says. "It could cost less and it could cost much more. It's economics - not emotional."

Sundberg balks at the notion of an outside marketing entity coming in and imposing their structure on farmers who he believes "know best" and are constantly trying to innovate.

Prescott cites a two-and-a-half year-long economic analysis by Iowa State University in which researchers found that group housing of gestation sows resulted in a weaned pig cost that was 11 percent less than the cost of one produced within an individual stall. Additionally, the study notes that group housing does not require more labor than a crate - possibly even less - but that the skill sets may be different and require training.

Grandin advises that farmers might lessen the sting of equipment purchase if they make the switch at the natural replacement intervals for worn-out equipment. While she admits that the group housing may take 15 to 30 more space, the cost of steel barriers would be greatly reduced.

What does the future hold?

While Sundberg and the Pork Board are opposed to the change, he agrees, along with Prescott and Grandin that the shift away from gestation crates is inevitable. The economic pressure from large food corporations is too great, and public opposition to the current system only grows, as evidenced by online petitions, social media campaigns and polls.

Grandin believes that the resistance comes mainly comes from farmers in their 40s, who have only ever known the crate system. She has observed animal breeding facilities all over the world, and points to Murphy-Brown LLC, the world’s largest producer of pork products (and a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods) as an example of adaptation and innovation.

After a comprehensive study, the facility committed to phasing out gestation crates in favor of group housing, and sought to breed hybrid pigs with temperaments that were less aggressive and more suitable to communal living. And not only were the sows' living facilities improved - there was also a great benefit to the consumer. A slowdown in the breeding process in order to introduce new hybrids allowed the pigs to develop more fat, rather than quick-growing, but lean meat. It was, to Grandin's palate, "Much juicier and tastier."

That may be what makes change easier for everyone to swallow.

Read - Op-ed: Jane Velez-Mitchell – Get rid of gestation crates NOW and A day two pigs would die

soundoff (864 Responses)
  1. Alesia

    I am so infuriated that this discussion or Vote NEEDS to take place. What is wrong with our society. This is abuse with no further explanation needed. Sick and wrong. Who cares if the farmers suffer???? Aren't they suffering from all of us who are vegan or vegetarians for this SOLE reason!!! These types of animal cruelty can't hide like they used too. Thank god for the internet and technology to expose this type of Inhumane treatment.

    June 25, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
  2. JoJoJOWilliams

    This subject is over.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  3. TexasHorseLady

    You really want to do something worthwhile for animals? Besides working locally, cast a VERY jaundiced eye at anything that HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) tells you and consider them the moral equivalent of Big Business or Big Ag, because that's exactly what they are. (Well, as well as being PETA's more socially acceptable, until recently when the mask started slipping, public face – just look at the people and follow the money over the years and that's obvious.) If PETA/HSUS says it's so, research it for yourself NOT using animal rights sources, who usually just parrot whatever the Big Two tell them to say and/or swallow it whole. Make sure your funds for the welfare of animals are going where you intend them to and not into the pockets of HSUS executives, pension funds, and to lobbyists instead of animals.

    Don't fool yourself – HSUS is a business, pure and simple, with a vested interest in people believing that they are "saving the animals" because if people don't believe that, their pocketbooks won't open so easily.

    By the way, I work in rescue. That's my concern about this t – I care about the welfare of animals and PETA/HSUS feed on the opposite for their very continued existence.

    June 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • CanAmFam

      Ah, more paranoid, factless hyperbole from Big Ag, no doubt.

      HSUS is the world's most effective animal protection organization and have received the highest ratings from many organizations that rate effectiveness/responsible use of funds by non-profits. They are not a local shelter-funding organization. They get to the ROOT of the problems in animal cruelty – which of course irks folks like you who want to maintain the status quo (profits) and only pretend to care about animal welfare.

      And like Big Ag?? Seriously, you're not fooling anyone. On most legislative issues, HSUS gets OUTSPENT by Big Ag by five to ten times. What WE need to do is stop subsidizing the lobbying of Big Ag (which probably funded your comment) to lobby for profits that cause animal suffering.

      June 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
      • Pro Ag

        I am interested to know where you are getting your "facts".

        When has any combined agriculture group(s) been able to out spend anything HSUS or PETA has put up when it comes to lobbying or advertising?

        HSUS and PETA are out to end agriculture. They want to shut down anything that has to do with animal can look that up on their websites. They are out with the sole agenda to shut down any and all producers. They do not care if a pork producer is using gestation stalls or not...they want to close down the entire industry!

        Personally, I am in favor of gestation stalls as a choice of the producer to use in their production system. I also understand that a good manager can make either a stall system or an open pen system work. However, a bad manager can make either system fail.

        What gives the public the right to dictate to an industry, to which they do not understand, how they should operate? If you want to buy a product that was raised gestation stall free...that is your choice. Pushing to ultimately shut down an industry buy limiting how they can operate not only hurts the producers but other people in the world that we (in agriculture) are trying to feed is what is wrong.

        June 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
        • CanAmFam

          I get my facts from lobbying records. But I would be very interested where your claims come from. For example, I have looked at HSUS' web site and see absolutely NO evidence they are "out to end agriculture" as you claim. In fact, they have livestock producers on staff and advising them on humane livestock advocacy.

          Agribusiness is usually in the top 10 of industries lobbying in DC. In 2011-2012 so far they've spent a whopping $34 MILLION. HSUS on the other hand spends less than 1/10th of that on animal welfare legislation efforts. Which are critical, given your statement clearly indicates the livestock industry is incapable of recognizing inhumane practices, and by extension, self-policing. And yes, every American should have a say in policies that affect the laws of the land. It's called Democracy.

          June 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
        • Pro Ag


          Take a look at HSUS website under annual reports…2010 IRS Form 990.
          Second page towards the bottom under Advocacy and Public Policy expenses: $48,326,313. Forty-eight million is more than thirty-four million (wherever you came up with that number).

          I am going off (and believe in) the journal articles that I have read, conferences that I have attended and on the words of those that work in Washington DC whom I have spoken with. That is where I get my information. I have heard senators, congressmen, a senate aid and a state congressman page say that the Agriculture industry out spent in advertizing and lobbying.

          I have been to DC and I have seen the billboards (sponsored by both HSUS and PETA) that congressmen and senators go by everyday. I have been approached by PETA advocates handing out propaganda on the sidewalks of the National Mall.

          It isn’t hard to recognize that the initiatives that HSUS and PETA set forth are not helping producers in animal agriculture take better care of their livestock. Their motives have historically been against agriculture. I challenge you to go into a peer-reviewed scientific journal and show me conclusive evidence that one system (group penning or stall) is superior to another. I said in an earlier post that either system can work if properly managed or either system can fail if mismanaged.

          You accused me of being “incapable of recognizing inhumane practices” when I’m looking out for the welfare of the animals. I grew up rising hogs and I have a bachelor’s degree and finishing my masters in Animal Science. I understand the industry and the animals very well. What is your experience in the pork industry and what is your knowledge base that you think you should dictate the laws on those who do understand what is in the best interest of their livestock? Show me the science and show me the data.

          I know full well that we live in a democracy. I also know that USDA would be much better at making rules and having the state enforce those rules. (They do by the way…operations must be permitted and I can ensure you that they are checked.)

          June 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  4. José Reino

    I am always a little confused when people say things like "being against agriculture". This is because in Spanish "agricultura" does not in include raising of animals, the word for that is "ganaderia". I know than in English there is no separation but maybe it should be.

    By the way, the etymology of the word Agriculture according to Wikipedia (and I don't doubt its veracity) is:


    The word agriculture is the English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager, "a field",[10] and cultūra, "cultivation" in the strict sense of "tillage of the soil".[11] Thus, a literal reading of the word yields "tillage of a field / of fields".

    June 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • xavi

      When I was a kid, my parents told me my uncle was a hog farmer. That's just strange I thought, and I asked them why not a pig rancher? They just gave me funny looks. But it still brings to my mind, images of pigs popping out the ground!

      June 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  5. Kim

    Google or You Tube Joel Salatin, and Polyface Farm. Responsible farming can be done. Joel says "Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health." So true.

    June 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  6. Savory Brown

    I wonder what John Mccain's white blood cell count was under these circumstances.

    June 8, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  7. paula

    It isnt just pigs, its every single farm animal whether they are being moved by auctioners to the feeding arena. Farm animals suffer horrible horrible abuses and The Humane Society has shown us some of the worst offenders. Humans are the worst animal on earth and it is just getting worse with time. Dogs getting dragged by vehicles, getting burned by fire and with acid, small horses being thrown and kicked to death, chickens, turkeys and piglets being used as soccor balls and the list goes on and on. These animals have no voice and no one to come to their defense but us. Look at the hippo's and elephants that get their horns cut out all in the name of the all mighty dollar. Discusting and horrific. Some of these comments are terrible and i was disappointed at the poll and some of you thinking this confinement and abuse is ok. FIND A BETTER WAY this is not acceptable. Increase animal abuse punishments.

    June 8, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • theresa07

      Paula , you said it best. I have always said , the worst animals on earth are humans!

      June 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  8. paua

    I stopped eating pork products the minute I saw the horrid video about Tyson. I wont eat another Tyson product ever. These dirt rich farms all need to be put out of business or develope a better enviroment for these animals. Just because we are going to eat them and they are on death row or breed to slaughter is no reason to treat them this way. Can you imagine being in a crate like these and suffereing abuses 24/7! Think about it

    June 8, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • theshoeminator

      Not every farm mistreats their animals.

      June 10, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  9. Myto Senseworth

    Why not start eating animals that are well treated such as domestic cats and dogs. They are well treated so they should tast good...........Stop eating the poor pigs.

    June 8, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • xavi

      Ever see what's in a friskie factory?

      June 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  10. Myto Senseworth

    Let's see...early man...winter time .....yes I am sure they ate mostly veggies....not!

    June 8, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • José Reino

      We are not early man. Supposedly we have evolved and we can afford not to eat animals at all and be healthier and wiser. Why do people want to compare themselves to the early stages of the evolution of man. Grow up! Evolve.

      June 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
      • theshoeminator

        Biologically, we're the same as the people who roamed the earth 30K years ago. Some cultures have adapted to subsist on certain foods (Asians with rice, Northern Europeans with dairy, Inuit on a meat-heavy diet). But grains are still relatively new. The only reason we grow them is to feed more people than what could be provided on a hunter-gatherer diet. Grains have never been optimal nutrition and never will be.

        June 9, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • CanAmFam

        Well said Jose!

        June 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

    This morning at the diner , where I had my Bacon and Eggs, I asked the cook if the Bacon and Eggs were from happy animals. He laughed his butt off.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  12. Myto Senseworth

    More people are killed by pigs each year than sharks.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Galin

      That, of course, is not really applicable to this story as the pigs you're referring to are the wild boars, not the pigs we eat.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Myto Senseworth

      I am refering to the farmed pigs.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • José Reino

      I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if more people died from eating animals and animal products, than directly killed by animals.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  13. cornfed88

    I've spent my life around animals; mostly farm animals and I havea degree in Animal Science. While i don't 100% agree wth gestation crates; those that don't have a clue shouldn't be passing judgement. Gestation crates/farrowing crates are used because sows are very large and when they have 10-14 piglets; they frequently lie down on top of them and kill piglets. In addition; pigs are very intelligent but very aggressive animals towards one another. They will bite and aggressively attack eachother on a constant basis if kept in group housing. It's part of their nature. These crates allow pigs to interact while preventing them from mauling eachother and imposing bad injuries. Because they fight; one pig will keep the rest from resting, eating or drinking; making the quality of life for the bullied pigs much worse. Those not involved with agriculture need to understand that if production animals were abuse, unhappy, or mistreated.....they wouldnt produce; anything. Can animals die in these situations? of course. all animals; no matter what theyre raised for; frequently encounter health issues, etc and do not survive as planned. The same with injurie; animals will be animals and they can do damage to themselves. Folks need to understand that farmers do their best to provide a good life for their animals; to prevent injuries and death and to give them a high quality diet and what they need to flourish. Everyone also needs to understand that farmers are farmers because they love what they do. If you dont love working with pigs, or dairy cattle, or chickens; then why would you choose to raise them? Why would you choose to dedicate every day of your life to laboring over your animal's welfare and in the end; you get crap for pay, crap for benefits, etc. Im not sure if you realize this; but farmers don't get rich off of what they do. If you want to farm; you better damn well love it and be perfectly comfortable with the stress and dedication it takes to do it. i dont know about most of you; but farmers get up everyday, 365 days a year, before the crack of dawn to start their chores, feed their aniamls, tend to youngstock, plant and harvest crops, fix machinery, clean the barns, work with the veterinarian, breed animals, manage their books, etc. By the end of the day; they're in bed just before midnight (if all goes as planned) to wake up several hours later to start all over again. Everyday my animals eat breakfast and dinner before i do. No body should be slamming a farmer with harsh criticism until youve walked a mile in his/her shoes.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Galin

      Well put. Farming is not a 9-5 job and you really do have to love it. I know I do. Unfortunately in a lot of the corporate farms we see hired hands abusing animals badly and the "farmers" not doing anything about it. This gives all of us farmers a bad name so we good ones really need to band together against those bad ones.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Cathy

      I have spent most of my life around farm animals. It does not take Einstein to recognize cruelty when you see it. I will comment all I want to about it. Do not have the audacity to tell people they have no right to their opinion. We have the right according to the Constitution to speak openly about anything we like. I hate gestation crates. They are cruel. I don't care what your qualifications are. I have a right to my own opinion and the right to openly say so. How dare you tell somone not to comment. Who do you think you are?

      June 8, 2012 at 10:55 am |
      • Chirstian Meateater

        Hi Cathy. Your point about speaking freely is well taken and it is guaranteed under the constitution. However, your rights do not extend to directing the business and rights of others to operate their business. Speak about it all you want though. For all of those folks that really do not know what they are talking about when it comes to caring for livestock, other than their own anthropomorphic views and feelings about what is cruel or not, they should simply learn to not inject themselves into a debate until they have gathered the real facts. We have a situation now in our great country where the radical few with an insane view and goal to convert the unwilling majority to veganism are unjustly pushing the same majority toward higher and higher cost food systems that will not deliver any real tangible benefits. If you want to eat meat from animals that fit your particular anthropomorphic feelings that is fine, either raise your own, or contract with someone that agrees to your standards but do not step in and demand that we convert our entire system to satisfy the radical few and jepordize the majority.

        June 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
      • Ally

        Relax, Cathy. He's not telling people they can't comment. What he's saying is there are a lot of people up in arms about this that have never stood next to a pig, cow, chicken, etc. And in many cases when someone spouts off about something they don't really have a lot of facts on, they can spread mis-information and in general sound foolish.

        He's asking people to truly look for the facts before judging. I haven't decided what the best course of action is. I'm against cruelty to animals, but there is research supporting both sides of this issue out there.

        June 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Paul

      For the quote about anesthesia free castration at one place that was "uncovered"? Almost all castration in piglets is done without anesthesia and it would cause them more pain and stress to be anesthetized and have to wake up than to have it done quickly (this is back up both by observational studies and studies of cortisol, the body's main stress hormone).

      June 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • CanAmFam

      I find it hard to believe you have a degree in Animal Science since you don't know the difference between gestation crates and farrowing crates. More likely a city slicker turned Ag lobbyist.

      It's pretty simple – gestation crates are used during gestation (another word for pregnancy). Once piglets are born, sows are put in farrowing crates. The movement is to abolish GESTATION crates, NOT farrowing crates!

      June 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • JimSF

      I have never been a slave owner, a mass murderer, or a pedophile. Do you think that they are also above criticism? Geez!!

      June 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

    I believe all Christians should be vegetarians. We should not be eating Gods' Creatures.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Chirstian Meateater

      Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
      Genesis 1:26

      This includes eating them.

      June 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • dt

        Hmm.. Well suppose that some advanced civilization from other than here also had a 'bible' written by one of their early civilization who wrote the same thing but included YOU as one of the animals over which they have 'dominion'? I just bet it would take you .0005 nanoseconds to label their 'god' as utter nonsense. Funny how perspective changes a lot about how animals think.

        June 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
        • Chirstian Meateater

          There is but one true God. Be careful about where you put your allegiance

          June 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
        • dj

          If ifs and ands were pots and pans there would be no work for tinkers

          June 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
        • xavi

          dj: what a wonderful proverb. Never heard of it, but I think I will remember it!

          June 9, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  15. Myto Senseworth

    I have to work in a box so small I can't turn arround and could never lay down in. Am I being treated poorly? Is there an activist group that cares about treatment of humans? naaaaaa .........Go hug your pig.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  16. a zap

    It's horrific and inhumane the way the pigs are treated. It's a sad thing that people have to survive on eating animals. The way the animals are treated is horrendous. It doesn't have to be this way. I like to eat meat once in a while, but if the animal is traumatized I don't want it period. It's horrible the way all animals are treated for consumption of food. People are more dangerous than most animals. I know animals hunt down other animals, but they need to survive. People torture and hurt animals to get their food. That's inhumane. Give the animals their freedom. Stop torturing all the animals.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Myto Senseworth

      If you don't like the way they are treated, grow and kill your own food.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  17. Myto Senseworth

    If you think pigs are being treated in a bad way in this country just import your meat like you do everything else. I'm sure the imported meat comes from animals that were well treated. There are fewer and fewer farmers raising pigs because people don't like the farms nearby and they complain about how they are raised. The price will go up and will be eating the imported meat. Good luck with that....At least local pigs will be happy.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  18. Markus P

    I can't believe people care this much about nonsense. Those pigs are food. They're raised to be fat and tasty. If only you gave as much thought to things that actually matters and not pointless crap like this society would probably move forward. Like that will ever happen, though.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:15 am |

      That a 'U.S.D.A CERTIFIED DOPE' stamp on yer shoulder??

      June 10, 2012 at 5:25 am |
  19. bigJ

    What a total misleading article. Why don't they say the truth instead of just a "version" of the truth. The gestation crates were designed for safety of the sows, and their brood. The whole truth of this is, it is not because of limited space that sows were put in these it was to protect them and their offspring. Without gestation crates, sows would be injured and lose their pigs and many times their own lives because of the aggressiveness of the breed. Also, crates protect the piglets as they are unable to move out from the sow when she lays down and it also protects them from other sows who would kill them. Now, why isn't this printed? This is the truth as I used to raise hogs and went to crates, only for gestation and birthing, they free range the rest of the time. Now also why isn't this posted? they don't live their entire lives in crates, many range outside of late gestation and pigging. This article is full of mis and half truths. Another totally biased and anti farm article from people who want all of us to be vegans.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Markus P

      Figures the media manipulates the truth once again to noone's surprise.

      June 8, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Ashley

      It says GESTATIONAL crates, not farrowing crates. It even says in the article they are moved for farrowing. I agree, I raised pigs also for some time, but never used any sort of restraining device on them. This article is not against farmers at all. It's against the factories that produce pigs. I bet most of the CEOs of the companies have never set foot in the barns for more than a few inspection days. Most of the world would agree, these people are NOT farmers.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  20. kathleen taylor

    Animals raised for human consumption must be slaughtered (killed) no matter how they are raised. There is never anything humane about killing. While it is ethically better for animals to live their lives unconstrained and in a natural, clean, spacious, and outdoor environment, it will never, in the long run, be ethical to continue to harvest animals for eating, wearing, and all the multitude of uses the world has devised to use animals. For this reason alone, not including all the planetary woes which are happening at an increased rate, I advocate the abolishment of all animal farming that inevitably leads to the deaths of billions of animals yearly. The responsible choice we can all choose to make is to eat a plant based diet. We will curb human starvation, water, land, and air pollution, and save on healthcare costs.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  21. Whittney

    Why would a farmer purposely harm an animal? Farmers are not monsters that mistreat their livestock. And why would they? Those animals that they raise from birth are their income and help feed their own families; it’s silly to think a farmer would sabotage his own well-being by mistreating animals.
    I have a B.S. in agriculture and have studied the process of raising pigs–not to mention the fact I live on a farm and deal with these things every day. I have seen sows fight viciously, it happens, just like women on reality tv! What makes anyone think they know more about farming than the actual farmer and the scientists devoting their research to making farms more efficient? I do not go into my doctors office and demand he change the way he treats me, I understand he knows more.
    Most livestock are treated better than humans. They get fed on a regular basis a diet that is developed by someone with a PhD in animal nutrition that creates the nutrition plans for farms, they get housing, all the medical care they need—seriously how many people in our country are living without those very things right now? It is mind boggling that people who have no agricultural background or experience drive these campaigns against agriculture.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • José Reino

      If farm animals are treated better than humans, would you trade places?
      Nobody is a monster, we all need to eat and feed our families. However, we humans have a way to block what we don't want to see, even if it is right in front of us. Same with doctors, you can blindly go and trust them if you wish, I wont. There many great doctors but, many doctors are nothing but drug pushers, be it because of ignorance, neglect or plain greed. And if you think that pharmaceutical companies goal is to help humanity you live in denial
      One thing I personally believe, we all would be better of, if we let animals be and concentrated in the vegetables and crops part of the farm environment.

      June 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  22. T Nard

    The people who raise animals this way should be put in there with them. This is so disgusting I hate the people who farm animals like this and I hope their brains grow a conscious and treat animals better and feed them better.

    June 8, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  23. Jules

    You know, I get that we are raising animals for slaughter and there is only so much that we can reasonably do to keep it from being a pretty horrible experience, but this is really rough. Pigs are super bright and no one would think it was ok to do this to a dog, so basically that says it all.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • RebelYell

      This is cruel, mean and sad. That says it all. A 10 year timeline....a decade to change this practice??!! Until then, buy only Cargill pork products, I say.

      June 8, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  24. LI_Bri

    The USA has no morals, no soul. I'm glad my kids are young enough for me to show them a better place.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:54 am |

    So, I did a little reading about pig intelligence. They seem to have a leg up on most farm animals. They do remember things. They are easily trained. They catch on to commands easily. They seem to posses a loyalty to their owners, or their human friends , if you please. I also found out they like to drink alcohol and watch TV.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  26. Steve

    I'm an animal nutritionist. I have learned through years of education and practical experience that animals grow best when they are stress free. While gestation crates may seem cruel to the average person who doesn't work with animals every day, the animals are in fact treated very humanely and are under very low stress. Animals are not people. What bothers us, doesn't necessarily bother them.

    Another fact that people should check before they carelessly throw it around: close to 100% of farms are family owned. They are not "corporate farms". Yes, a farm family may have incorporated their farm, but that is entirely for tax purposes. The farms are still family owned.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • susie2

      Well Steve I'm quite sure you are intelligent because you THINK you are, but when was the last time you were a TALKING animal??????

      June 8, 2012 at 8:59 am |
      • amused123

        Steve you were doing (just) "ok", until you spouted an unsubstantiated/unsourced statistical claim. Susie2, if one cannot judge an animal's mode by it's behavior, than one is either dumb, or arrogant beyond my wildest dreams. Judging mood is instinctive as sure as your heart is beating. Oh wait; let me rephrase that....

        June 8, 2012 at 9:19 am |
        • Steve

 you go:

          June 8, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Nika

      2% are corporate farms, and they are responsible for 17% of production. Also, just because a farm is family owned doesn't mean it doesn't run as a corporate farm, many large businesses are family owned. In fact, the top 2% of farms are responsible for 50% of production.

      My family (grandma, eventually my uncles will inherit it) owns a farm, it is a massive amount of land that is spread out throughout the state, and they hire out for a great deal of the operation for practical reasons (my uncles farm the part near where my grandparents live, the land farther away from them is hired out). They farm soybeans and corn, most of which is used for feed and industrial use. But, anyway, my families operation, which has been built over generations, isn't exactly the small, struggling family farm ideal people have in their heads. They were fortunate to have land in prime development territory, which could be sold and the money invested in land in less populated areas.

      June 8, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  27. Margo Forbes

    The United States commits it's own form of terrorism on any factory farm animal. We are one of the cruelest nations that commits atrocities ten fold on factory farm animals. We should all be ashamed. Americans are some of the greediest, selfish and unthinking people in this world. All factory farming should come to an end now!! These animals suffer horrific pain, fear and neglect. It is revolting. The US has no right to criticize other people for their cruel acts in other countries, we commit our own right here at home. Animals deserve dignity and respect, they get none in the US on factory farms.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  28. Nika

    If sows do not do well in groups, then why not give them a larger pen so they can move around more? Or house them in smaller groups? Surely there must be a solution that provides a decent quality of life. We can't be that focused on saving a couple bucks on our ham and our pork chops not to want the animal to have a decent life.

    I like the idea of breeding for less aggressive pigs, therefore making group living more hospitable. Pigs are very intelligent animals, they should be allowed a decent quality of life.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  29. Samson

    The cruelty the human race is capable of astonishes me almost every day.

    June 8, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • mark p


      June 8, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • Diane H.

      So terribly sad but true.

      June 8, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  30. Bob B

    Who ever wrote this piece is telling a one sided story for the most part. Not all pigs are treated the same as some of the big boys and private farms. I raised pigs for years and knew two breeders that I would buy my piglets from and they took good care of their pigs. One breeder would use these crates, not as small., but not big enough so the sows could turn around and crush or lay down on the pigletss and kill them. Most sows produce ten to fourteen piglets at a time and they almost always want to feed from the sow or sleep within a foot of their mother. This farmer had happy pigs that produced good and had very few deaths of piglets. The other breeder used pens that were quite big and had good results, but some piglets would be stepped on or layed down on and killed, because the piglets were always underfoot. I would always use these breeders because they knew how to raise great pigs. Not all farms are all good and should change the way they raise their pigs. Some people don't really care and just look at profits and they need to change. In my opinion the HS is a better judge of these farms then PETA. People want to buy pork when they go to the store and there are a lot of good farms out there producing good pork. And to the people that don't want to eat meat, buy your veggies and be happy if the farmers that grew your veggies did it without a bunch of chemicals. I like to buy organic whenever I can, it tastes better and is better for you.

    June 8, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • Tammy Marie

      Who cares who wrote what, the suffering of animals for us to eat meat is unacceptable, God put all life on earth and to be so cruel to enjoy a piece of bacon makes me sick. I'd rather eat veggies and pasta then torture farm animals so I can put unhealthy food into my body and slaughter a living creature. This world is all about making a buck and I for one am glad I am no part of the cruelty to animals. I hope everyone who kills an animal suffers the same pain as they do. Amen

      June 8, 2012 at 8:02 am |
      • OhPlease

        Have plants harmed you in anyway? Why are you for killing and eating them? They are living creatures too. So is it okay to kill a living being as long as it does not bleed and cry out in ways that you recognize. If you never ate a living thing you would not live long.

        June 8, 2012 at 10:31 am |
      • Ally

        Tammy, while I wholeheartedly agree that cruelty against animals is wrong, I don't go so far as to say eating bacon is wrong. (although I don't eat bacon). You say God put animals on this earth. Yes. But go re-read Genesis again. He also gave us dominion over all other species. Which includes the ability to eat them.

        June 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Stop Factory Farms

      The problem here Bob is that fast food chains, grocery stores and other big distributors don't often disclose where their product comes from or how it's treated. I'm sure you were very to your pigs, but when a major corporation owns a farm, they are trying to get every last cent out of these animal's hides. In order to make a profit, they cram them in crates and pens by the hundreds or thousands and this leads to inhumane treatment like debeaking, tail docking and teeth removal all without anesthetic or veterinary care. This process is called Factory Farming. The cramped conditions also breed disease, which has led to the rise of overtreating the animals with antibiotics which ultimately end up in our blood stream.

      June 8, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • 13directors

      Here's the deal, Bob B. Humans should not be consuming this much meat to warrant this issue in the first place. The meat industry is very wealthy who like you say is profit driven. Except for the immediate danger decontamination caused by , salmonella, etc., our health is their least concern.

      June 8, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  31. unowhoitsme

    Pig Farmers need to be REQUIRED to live in these pens for a week. Immediately, they'd come up with a roomier design that would include a frig and TV. The size of these pens aren't ethical. Put these farmers in prison for animal abuse.

    June 8, 2012 at 7:24 am |


      June 8, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  32. Grey

    As a general rule, people really don't know where their food comes from, and why a necessity has not increased at the rate of inflation while its quality has dramatically improved. If you think this is bad, then definitely don't go to the slaughter houses where they actually convert it into what you put on your barbeque... I love my baby back baby back baby back I love my...

    June 8, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • Diane H.

      If people actually knew where their food came from I guarantee they'd all be vegetarians. Slaughter houses are pure hell on earth for animals, and the employees have a high rate of suicide. What does that tell you?

      June 8, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  33. Steve

    Did someone say Bacon?

    June 8, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  34. Shelley

    Go vegan. It's good for the animals, the environment, the world's hungry (the plants fed to animals raised for meat could feed the world), and good for your health. There is no such thing as humane murder.

    June 8, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • chumina

      very true death to all who eat animals.GO VEGAN GOOD FOR HEALTH.U WANA DIE YOUNG EAT LARD.

      June 8, 2012 at 12:51 am |

        What a HUMANE thing to say about HUMANS

        June 8, 2012 at 6:44 am |
    • Glenn

      You do injustice to people who are killed when you call killing an animal murder. To be honest, people care more about the killing of animals than animals do. You can kill an animal right next to another animal and the others will go right on eating and doing their thing.

      June 8, 2012 at 1:38 am |

        I wouldn't stop eatin' my dinner over yer murder, that's fer sure!

        June 8, 2012 at 1:49 am |
        • Glenn

          Guess that makes you an animal.

          June 8, 2012 at 1:54 am |
      • CanAmFam

        Glenn, clearly you haven't spent time in a slaughterhouse, or even educating yourself mildly on the highly stressful reaction of animals witnessing the death of another in proximity. I have seen it – pigs shaking in fear, terrified vocalizing and all species trying desperately to escape. That's why Temple Grandin's work in cattle slaughterhouses is very much designed to shield animals from the death preceding them.

        June 8, 2012 at 2:27 am |
      • pat

        Glen. It IS possible to care about humans AND other creatures.

        June 8, 2012 at 7:30 am |

    Do you suppose that my commercials promoting Smithville Hams, the company who says it'll take at least another FIVE YEARS to change their cruel treatment of the pigs they raise, care if I protest some?? Probably not, SO I WON"T SAY A WORD ABOUT IT Y'ALL!!! Have some butter on that bacon, it won't matter much if you are fat and have diabetes – I won't tell no one 'bout it. Keep that mouth of yours shut if yer makin' money, honey. There,...feel better?? I do.

    June 8, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Nick

      uhh.....Do you not realize that butter and bacon don't cause diabetes? sugar does.

      June 8, 2012 at 3:11 am |
      • kevin roberts

        Finally someone who gets it! It used to be called sugar diebetes. Nothing to do with meat whatsoever.

        June 8, 2012 at 8:31 am |
        • 13directors

          I appreciate your desire for clarification, but people who typically eat unbalanced portions of meat usually eat unbalanced portions of everything also.

          June 8, 2012 at 8:42 am |
        • PAULA DEAN - DONG

          Point is, Darlin', I'll say and do anything to make a buck – honest or not. Eat yer 'heart out'. Hidin' my diabetes due to sugar intake was defended by the same people here that defend the terrible practices done to animals. It's MY RIGHT TO MAKE A BUCK. Now, about my weight,.....Here chew on this stick of butter while I tell y'all about it.

          June 8, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  36. Inciteful

    Obviously, the "workers" at Wyoming Premium Farms are sociopaths. I'm glad I don't live anywhere near them.

    June 8, 2012 at 12:01 am |

      If it's the smell, y'all could get ya some of those colored-plastic clothes pins for yer nose. Oh, by the way, did you know I work on the side for Smithfield Hams??

      June 8, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  37. Juble Early

    As someone who has raised pigs (I raised registered breeding stock), I used a farrowing (gestational crate) only long enough for the sow to have her babies and until the piglets were about 1.5 weeks old (sows can accidently step on or crush the young piglets so you want to make sure they are capable of getting out of the way). When the sows were in the crate they would be removed every 3-4 hours (thru the 24 hour cycle) to allow them to tend to nature and stretch and exercise. I do not believe in factory farming, and I firmly believe that is a lot of the problems today with food.

    I have raised many animals that we have taken to fairs to show them, and I have always been amazed at how gregarious, smart (and clean, if allowed to be) they are. I have never eaten anything that I raised (I'm human, I get attached) and approximately 3 years ago I gave up pork because my conscience bothered me (again, I'm human).

    June 7, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • chumina

      god bless u.vegan animals are like humans they have a soul and are smart.keep them safe.ty

      June 8, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • CanAmFam

      Head desk head desk – Juble, did you miss the point of the article, which clarified that gestation crates are NOT farrowing crates? It amazes me how many so-called farmers confuse the two. It is gestation crates – used ONLY during gestation (pregnancy) that people want outlawed. NOT farrowing crates, used post-birth, to protect the sows from lying on their piglets!

      June 8, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  38. Legal Eagle


    June 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  39. Rachel

    This is absolutely sick! WHAT THE H*LL IS WRONG WITH HUMAN BEINGS???????

    This is flat out ANIMAL ABUSE. Something must be done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • pop

      I hope ur vegetarian with that comment,
      cruel or not, the death of an animal is the death of an animal.

      I'm vegetarian, but just thought i'd mention considering theres a bunch of greenies out there that 'save whales' but eat bacon for dinner.... that aint cool.

      June 7, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  40. annawest

    Thanks, Eatocracy, for covering this important issue! People should know what animals go through before they end up on the dinner table. If there are ways of making farming practices more humane, we should implement them.

    June 7, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  41. Sarah

    I just want bacon to be nitrite free. No more 'red salt'!!

    June 7, 2012 at 10:40 pm |

      The salt's gone Communist?? No kiddin'.

      June 8, 2012 at 1:51 am |
  42. Saber

    Pork its what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner! You veggie-heads have no clue! You fools cry about nothing! Maybe I'll start crying about you veggies killing plants! OHHHHH don't kill the squash it has feelings! Don't kill that lettuce, how would its mommy feel! Really! Morons! MEAT that is what we eat! Pro carnivore! YEAH!

    June 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Netmonger

      Im not a vegetarian, but you have to be completely heartless not to realize they have some valid points.. and the future of humanity will eventually be food that doest require animals to die – at some point.. dont be such a selfish jerk..

      June 7, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
      • pop

        if you feel sorry for the torture of animals, don't eat them.
        plain and simple, just before one was killed with an injection and one was bred in torture... they were still killed for their meat...
        meat eating is a terrible thing.

        June 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Andrew

      Thanks for the assiness. You just created another vegetarian, genius.

      June 7, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Vettech

      Ok, I'm not a vegetarian, I eat pasture raised, cage free, meat and eggs from local small farmers. But, this is totally inhumane and uncalled for animal cruelty. You try living in a gestation crate for one day and you'll be begging to be released! What people don't understand is, treat your food poorly and you end up suffering as well! Don't you get it!? The mass cattle slaughter farms feed their beef a mixture of grain, saw dust, and chicken manure! Mmmmm, healthy huh? And to those of you who care less about where your meat comes from, hope you realize the crap (literally) you are putting into your body! When animals are treated better they thrive and are less likely to become ill and diseased, therefore their meat is much healthier for you. I went to Vet school and had to visit a cattle farm and watched videos of animals in slaughter houses. These animals sense the fear and danger, they are not dumb/clueless animals, they know what is going to happen to them. Animals know well before we do, when something bad is about to happen. Do some research people!

      June 8, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  43. ydoucare

    The people crying about gestation crates now will be the exact same idiots that will cry when pork prices go up. Guaranteed.

    June 7, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Andrew

      Same as those "crying" about furs and nukes and the holocaust. All staples of solid finance, right?

      June 7, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Netmonger

      If 'ya actually read the article, you'd see where they talk about how raising pigs in groups can actually work out to be *cheaper*. You'd also have read how major pork buying companies are dictating this to be the 'norm – because thats what their customers demand. i.e Its what people want.

      June 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm |

      Well then, son,...go eat worms.

      June 8, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • xavi

      Naa. Meat has become unaffordable to me except on occasion. You can't whine about such things.

      June 9, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  44. Kenny T.

    Thank you for covering this important animal abuse issue, CNN. Pigs deserve better than being confined for months on end in tiny gestation crates, so small they can't even turn around!

    June 7, 2012 at 10:02 pm |

      While I was 'gestatin', I couldn't turn around either. Must'a been the crate, don't ya think, darlin'?

      June 8, 2012 at 12:53 am |
  45. theshoeminator

    I love the arguments that these articles bring up. So much fail on both sides.

    On one hand, you have a group of bleeding hearts who think they know biology just by reading a few blogs. "Meat rots in our intestines", "Meat gives you cancer", "Humans are supposed to eat plants", etc.

    Then you have the people that don't care, and for some reason feel compelled to make a post stating how little they care. And of course, one can't forget about our lovable trolls.

    Also present are those who try to paint an honest picture of the industry or are hunters, and also try to dispel myths about raising livestock. Truths which the first group of people don't seem to want to hear because it doesn't line up with what they saw in "Forks Over Knives" or "Meet your Meat".

    The only reason humans developed agriculture was because it fed a lot of people on low-nutrient food. I'm sure that back then it was better to keep your belly full than to worry about your teeth falling out and developing chronic illnesses by eating a grain-based diet.

    June 7, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Andrew

      What a douchey interpretation of collective reality. Thanks for that, fulbright.

      June 7, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Andrew

      You sound like you're "invested".

      June 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Netmonger

      Im not a vegetarian.. and I love BBQ! But I offer you this: run your finger along your teeth.. 'Ya dont feel any sharp ones there do ya? Eating meat allowed humans to evolve faster, and get smarter quicker, but we have always primarily been more veggie eaters and are ancestors were pretty much vegetarians. IMO Americans these days eat way too much meat! Its just horribly expensive and damaging to the environment. Either reduce the human opulation or cut down on the meat consumption. Somethings gonna have to give eventually..

      June 7, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Sarah

      I quit eating grains and all forms of carbohydrate, that are not veggies, and basically cut my insulin in half. I eat protein, fat, veggies, seeds, and nuts and wow, what a difference that's made in the way I feel! It's great!

      June 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • unshaven

      ummmm. and your point of rambling on like that is???????? oh, speakinbg of morons... hahahahaha

      June 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  46. Andrew

    You are what you eat and Americans are some obese, immovable, unhealthy creatures.

    June 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • theshoeminator

      Speak for yourself.

      June 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
      • Andrew

        I'll speak for you since you refuse to address the collective. Keep that head in the sand and stfu.

        June 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
        • theshoeminator

          At least I'm not so arrogant as so speak FOR the collective. Stay in your basement, neckbeard. The real world's a scary place.

          June 8, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • carlenaltman


      June 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
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