CHICAGO - McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, will require its pork suppliers to get rid of gestation pens that animal-rights groups have long deemed cruel to pigs.
“There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows,’’ Dan Gorsky, a McDonald’s senior vice president, said in a statement yesterday that was released with the Humane Society of the United States.
The company, which uses pork in sausage McMuffins, breakfast platters, and McRib sandwiches, will require suppliers to submit plans by May to phase out the metal cages.
McDonald’s is “one of the largest purchasers of pork - bacon and sausage, in particular,’’ said David Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council. The chain buys about 1 percent of the US pork supply, a McDonald’s spokeswoman said.
The move comes 11 years after Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. began requiring pork suppliers to raise pigs outside or in large cages and use antibiotic-free, vegetarian food.
Gestation cages are typically about 2 by 7 feet, too small for a full-size sow to turn around. Pigs kept in these pens are more susceptible to illnesses, said Paul Shapiro, spokesman for the Humane Society. They also suffer psychologically because pigs are “very social, intelligent animals,’’ he said. Cargill Inc., the commodity trader, and Smithfield Foods Inc. are leading the way in getting rid of the animal enclosures, McDonald’s said.
“It’s just wrong to immobilize animals for their whole lives in crates barely larger than their bodies,’’ said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society.
“McDonald’s isn’t going to say this, but we’re throwing away a lot of good things about gestation stalls,’’ said Steve Meyer, president of the livestock consulting firm Paragon Economics. Separate pens keep hogs from fighting, he said.