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Hillshire move away from confining stalls for pigs

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (AP) -- The Hillshire Brands Co. said Friday that it plans to stop buying pork from suppliers that use confining pens for pregnant sows.

It joins a growing list of companies that are phasing out their ties to gestation stalls. Critics say are inhumane because they keep sows so tightly confined that they can spend most of their lives and multiple pregnancies with too little space to turn around or even sleep on their sides.

Advocates of gestation stalls say sows placed in group pens tend to fight, which leads to injuries and submissive sows losing out on food. Replacing gestation stalls also increases costs for suppliers.

However suppliers are facing increasing pressure to move away from the stalls as industry giants such as McDonald's Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp. and others put policies in place against them.

Hillshire Brands, based in Downers Grove, Ill., said that it is in talks with suppliers about other options. The company plans to have an alternative in place by 2022.

Hillshire does not raise pigs, but generates annual revenue of roughly $4 billion from the sale of products such as Hillshire Farm meats, Jimmy Dean sausage and Ball Park hot dogs. It was known as the Sara Lee Corp. until the company spun off its coffee and tea business in June and renamed its remaining business.

"The company's plan is to source all pork from suppliers who use housing that provides the animals the opportunity for adequate movement and comfort, while also ensuring their safety," Hillshire said in a statement. "Hillshire Brands' goal is for our suppliers to combine quality animal care and worker safety with solutions that are adaptable for farm family operations of all sizes."

Hillshire Brands said all of its meat suppliers must complete a number of audits and certifications before they can work with the company in addition to routine animal well-being inspections performed by federal regulators.

Shares of Hillshire Brands rose 22 cents to close at $27.34.