Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., announced today that it will begin formulating plans that provide for a pork supply system within Cracker Barrel that is free of gestation crates, cages used to confine breeding pigs, which have been criticized in recent years due to animal welfare concerns.

These plans take into consideration a thorough review of studies that have investigated consumer preferences regarding breeding pigs being housed in groups rather than individual crates, and economic analyses, such as one study by Iowa State University, in the nation’s largest hog- producing state, that have documented lower production costs for pork suppliers who use group housing.

“We’re seeing an evolution in Americans’ awareness and attitudes regarding meat produced with higher animal welfare in mind,” says Vance Fouraker, Cracker Barrel’s vice president of strategic sourcing. “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.”

The Humane Society of the United States supports the move. “We are grateful to Cracker Barrel for putting a stake in the ground when it comes to the extreme confinement of sows in gestation crates,” says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “Americans care about how farm animals are treated, and gestation crate confinement is simply out-of-step with those values.”

Just since February, other leading food companies—McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Kroger, and Safeway—have announced moves toward gestation crate-free supply chains.

Compass Group, the nation’s largest foodservice company with more than 10,000 dining operations across the country, enacted a policy to have its supply chain be gestation crate-free by 2017. Additionally, major pork producers like Smithfield Foods and Hormel have committed to stop using gestation crates at their company-owned breeding operations by 2017; Cargill is already 50 percent gestation-crate-free.

“Cracker Barrel hopes that all of our pork suppliers will share in our vision for a gestation crate- free future, and we’re excited to work with them to achieve this goal,” added Fouraker.

Food Safety, Industry News, Cracker Barrel