The Saga Continues: Smithfield Pork Responds

Last week I wrote a piece in the Atlantic about HSUS’s decision to file a complaint against Smithfield Foods for its claim that the pork it supplies to McDonald’s was raised according to the highest welfare standards. []

When I was researching my story I called Smithfield for a comment. They asked for my e-mail and sent me a generic, and totally useless, response, which you can read below in my previous post. After the story ran, however, I received the following letter from Smithfield. I plan to speak at length with this representative, as, judging from an e-mail exchange, he seems both sincere and impassioned. For now, though, here is the response: 


Dear Mr. McWilliams:

I want to advise you that your Nov. 3 The Atlantic posting, “McFib? The Conditions at McDonald’s McRib Pork Supplier”, unfortunately was based on misleading, inaccurate and outdated information provided by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which continues to spread misinformation about Smithfield Foods despite our best efforts to enlighten the organization about our animal care programs.

 I couldn’t help noticing that HSUS didn’t mention that in the wake of its 2010 video a Smithfield Foods committee and third-party animal care experts Dr. Temple Grandin and Jennifer Woods conducted separate investigations of our animal care procedures.

 As a result of their findings, three employees were terminated for violating our company’s industry-leading Animal Care Policy. In addition, our company implemented several recommendations from Dr. Grandin and Ms. Woods to further enhance and strengthen our animal care procedures. Among the recommendations, we have conducted retraining of our employees on the proper handling of our animals, and we re-emphasized to our employees that Smithfield Foods has zero tolerance for any behavior that does not conform to our established animal care procedures. Willful neglect or abuse of animals is not tolerated, and will result in immediate termination.

 Simply put, when mistakes are made or violations of our policies occur, we correct them.

Our farm managers and veterinarians take good care of our animals because they are the reason we are in business, and we do everything we can to ensure they are safe, comfortable and healthy. It’s the right thing to do, and it is integral to our company’s success.

You’ve also repeated an inaccurate HSUS claim that we have “rescinded” our goal of phasing out gestation stalls at our company-owned sow farms in favor of group housing by 2017. However, we remain committed to reaching that target.  

In fact, our commitment has never wavered, as evidenced by our progress in converting 30 percent of our sows to group housing by the end of 2011, and our commitment to spend more than $300 million to achieve our stated goal. Your readers can read about our progress at While the dramatic economic downturn of three years ago temporarily slowed our efforts in phasing out gestation stalls, we have always steadfastly stood by our commitment to ultimately achieve this goal.

 Beyond that, we are very proud that our concerted social responsibility efforts during the past decade have resulted in noteworthy third-party recognition. Most significantly, we were the first in our industry to achieve ISO 14001 environmental certification for all of our U.S. hog production and pork processing facilities. ISO 14001 is the international gold standard for environmental management. In addition, Smithfield Foods has been consistently named to FORTUNE magazine’s prestigious annual list of America’s Most Admired Companies. Companies are rated on eight criteria, from investment value to social responsibility.

 At the same time, let me quickly underscore that we’re not saying that we’re perfect. We have made mistakes in the past, but we have learned from them and we have redoubled our efforts to behave in a socially responsible manner. This is a journey, but we think we’re on the right track.


 Dennis H. Treacy

Executive Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer

Smithfield Foods, Inc.



About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

One Response to The Saga Continues: Smithfield Pork Responds

  1. Keith Akers says:

    Minor point, the link to is broken. If you click on it isn’t take you to but to the Texas State e-mail system.

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