PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway stores here have recently adopted several new purchasing policies aimed at ensuring animal welfare.
The new policies establish a preference for products like cage-free eggs, gestation crate-free pork, and poultry from suppliers that use controlled atmosphere stunning, which advocates say causes significantly less suffering than conventional poultry slaughter methods. Gestation crates are 2-foot-wide metal cages that confine millions of breeding pigs for nearly their entire lives. Notably, Smithfield, the nation's largest pork processor, ordered its producers to begin eliminating these crates over a year ago.
The increase in cage-free eggs is intended to favor producers who are converting away from battery-cage confinement systems. Safeway, the third-largest U.S. grocery retailer, plans to more than double the percentage of cage-free eggs to over 6% of its total egg sales within two years, and increase the proportion of gestation crate-free pork it offers by 5% during each of the next three years, to a total of 15% percent by 2010.
“These are significant and industry-leading numbers in this emerging segment of the business,” Brian Dowling, vice president of external affairs for Safeway, wrote in a recent letter to Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Factory Farming Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. “This initiative will make Safeway one of the first major retailers to undertake such an effort and sends an important message to suppliers and customers about these critical issues.”
HSUS has been in discussions with Safeway about improving its farm animal welfare standards and applauded Safeway's announcement as “a major marker for common-sense improvements in the treatment of farm animals,” according to a release issued by the organization.
In November 2007, HSUS filed a shareholder resolution with Safeway regarding animal welfare standards. Since the new policies were adopted, the resolution has been withdrawn.
The company's new policies reflect discussions with HSUS and with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.