Coles pork to go sow stall free

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 22nd July 2010

Coles has announced a plan to phase out the use of sow stalls by its producers by the end of 2014, with the first shipments of cage-free pork in the Coles Butcher line beginning next year. Coles already offers sow stall-free pork in the Otway, Linley Valley, and KR branded Outdoor Reared ranges.

RSPCA pigletsThe announcement coincides with the addition of new free-range pork products in the Coles’ Finest range, developed in conjunction with the RSPCA.

Sow stalls have become a hot topic in recent months, with the Tasmanian state government announcing that they will be phased out over seven years, and Australia’s largest piggery Riverlea committing to the same target.

“Our customers are becoming increasingly interested in welfare issues surrounding pig farming, with the use of sow stalls their greatest concern,” said Coles General Manager of Meat Allister Watson.

“For a number of months now, Coles has been working on plans with our pork producers to phase out sow stalls. We are working with our growers to ensure they avoid onerous costs in changing how they raise pigs. Changes will therefore take time to complete, but Coles and its suppliers are stepping heavily in the right direction.”

Sow stalls are metal cages, generally measuring two metres by 60 centimetres – slightly larger than an adult pig – in which a pregnant pig is confined. Pregnant pigs can be aggressive, and the crates allow large numbers of animals to be kept in a small space without risking bullying or injury.

Issues still exist around the use of farrowing crates, where a mother pig is kept tightly caged so that she cannot crush or injure her piglets, but the piglets can still suckle.

RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil commended Coles for showing leadership on pig welfare and said the move was the strongest signal yet that sow stalls were no longer palatable to consumers.

“The RSPCA has always said that to have a meaningful impact on pig welfare we need humane pork products on every supermarket shelf across Australia. To take pork produced from pigs in sow stalls off the shelves of a major retailer is a huge step towards achieving that,” said Ms Neil.

“The RSPCA believes we can all enjoy a pork roast and still care about the pig that provided it. We encourage shoppers to look for RSPCA Approved pork – our guarantee that those products were produced by pigs that were treated humanely.”

Pigs on RSPCA-approved farms are free to express their full range of natural behaviours, and procedures like teeth clipping, nose ringing and surgical castration are prohibited. In addition to space, bedding, nutritious food, clean water, shelter and ventilation, RSPCA farms must handle and transport their animals with consideration.

Coles Finest Free Range Pork products will be available in 60 Coles outlets in NSW, Victoria and the ACT from today.