Sow friendlier pork

In 2014, we announced plans to start sourcing pork from farms that no longer use sow stalls to restrain pregnant sows for prolonged periods of time. The introduction of “sow-friendly” pork represents another milestone on our Good Business Journey (GBJ). Woolworths’ GBJ is a commitment to ethical trade, sustainable farming and production methods, and social responsibility

We are very pleased to inform our customers that we have completed the sourcing implementation in our fresh pork products. We have also completed the process of signing off with authorities the customer messaging that will appear on product. During November, the ‘kinder to sows’ messaging will appear on fresh pork.

However, we have not been able to meet the deadlines for further processed pork products, such as bacon and ready meals that contain pork. These deadlines were originally end December 2014 and end July 2015 respectively. We would like to apologise to customers for the delay. The delay has been caused by a number of issues. Our pork suppliers are currently facing numerous complications in implementation. They are trying to balance doing the right thing in terms of animal welfare whilst remaining competitive and financially viable, which has proven to be quite challenging.

The complexity of capital investment issues and timelines, supply chains and costs involved to adapt the farming practices were considerably more than we anticipated.

We remain committed to working hand in hand with our suppliers, who are making significant investments to alter their infrastructure, in order to deliver to the “kinder to sow” milestone. We are still on a journey to roll this out to the rest of our vast and diverse product range containing pork and will continue to update customers on our progress.


What is a sow stall?
Sow stalls, sometimes referred to as gestation crates, are cages in which individual sows are confined in intensive pig production. The stalls are extremely restrictive and do not allow for free and natural movement of the sow. The sow can only stand up and lie down, but is unable to turn around. It is only the sows that are kept in the stalls, not the pigs that we eat. This change means that when you buy Woolworths pork it will be from pigs born to sows that do not spend their entire pregnancy in a tiny sow stall.

Woolworths has reduced the period sows are confined from the full 16-week pregnancy down to just seven days to allow for easier handling of the sow during artificial insemination and until pregnancy is confirmed.

Does this mean Woolworths pork farmers will no longer be using weaning crates (sometimes known as farrowing crates)?
No, this change in our farming policy only applies to sow stalls. The elimination of sow stalls is the first step of this journey and we believe it is the most important, as sow stalls have the biggest impact on the sows’ quality of life.

What are weaning crates?
Weaning crates are similar to sow stalls but are bigger in that they allow the sow to lie on her side so that the piglets can suckle. On Woolworths supplier farms the sow will be moved to the weaning crate up to a week before giving birth to her litter. She will remain there until the piglets are weaned at 21 to 28 days.

Why are weaning crates necessary?
Weaning crates allow the farmer easy access to and control of the sow during the birth of her litter and during the weaning phase. The industry believes that the crates prevent the sow from lying on her piglets.

Why not expand our free-range pork products?
Woolworths has been trying to expand our free-range pork offering over the years but sourcing ‘true free-range’ pork that is available all year round and is competitively priced has been very challenging.  Consequently we have rather focused on tackling some of the practices used in intensive farming and improving the lives of thousands sows across the country. We will continue to seek out viable options that meet our free-range standards.      

The Woolworths Good Business Journey

Our Good Business Journey is our sustainability programme, which is a comprehensive plan to make a difference in six priority areas: sustainable farming, protecting water supplies, reducing energy use, improving the management of waste, making a significant contribution to social development and supporting transformation initiatives. These are all challenges facing not only South Africa, but the world at large.

As part of our commitment to sustainable farming, we’re partnering with suppliers to find ways to produce products that cause minimum harm to the environment and improve farming practices, including the humane treatment of animals in our supply chain.