Cracker Barrel Ditches Pig Gestation Crates

One more chain joins the ranks of restaurants adopting more humane practices toward animals.

Megan is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

They'll still end up in slaughterhouses, but pigs used for pork will have life a little easier over the course of the next decade thanks to a few forward-thinking minds at Cracker Barrel. The company announced on its website late last week that it would "begin formulating plans that provide for a pork supply system...that is free of gestation crates." 

Gestation crates are narrow, contained spaces that hold pregnant sows; they're so small pigs cannot turn around or lie down comfortably. 

The timeline is rather vague, but it's a promising start and has the support of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

President and CEO of HSUS Wayne Pacelle said HSUS is grateful to Cracker Barrel for "putting a stake in the ground" regarding inhumane gestation crates, noting that such practices are out of alignment with the concern consumers have for animal welfare.

The chain, which operates more than 600 locations in 42 states,  says the decision to opt for more humane sourcing came after a "thorough review" of studies on consumer preferences regarding pork production, as well as economic analyses which demonstrated lower production costs for pork suppliers who use group housing instead of crates.

Earlier this month, McDonald's answered the call of consumers, pledging to end gestation crates in its pork supply in the next ten years. Burger King made a similar commitment to cage-free eggs and pork in April.

Cracker Barrel's Vice President of Strategic Sourcing, Vance Fouraker, notes that the decision was made with consumer preferences in mind. 

"We're seeing an evolution in Americans' awareness and attitudes regarding meat produced with higher animal welfare in mind," Fourake said on the company's web site. "We recognize that gestation crates may not be the best method to meet higher animal welfare goals and are committed to evolving to sustainable alternatives."

Are you concerned about the sourcing of meat that you eat at chain restaurants? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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