We want to address any concerns you may have regarding accusations from the animal rights group, Humane Society of the United States. We appreciate the opportunity to provide you with current facts so that you can make your own objective assessment of our efforts.
At the outset, I need to point out that HSUS’ accusations about our company not living up to its social responsibility commitments are misleading and baseless. Specifically, HSUS referred to our commitment to phase out gestation stalls, how we treat our animals and our new video series, Taking the Mystery Out of Pork Production. Allow me to address each of these issues.
First, HSUS suggests that Smithfield has backed away from our stated goal of phasing out gestation stalls in favor of group housing at our company-owned sow farms by 2017, but nothing could be further from the truth.
While the dramatic economic downturn of three years ago temporarily slowed our efforts in phasing out gestation stalls, we steadfastly stood by our commitment to ultimately achieve this goal. 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. I invite you to read about our progress at smithfieldcommitments.com.
Second, the well-being of all our animals is one of our highest priorities, which is why we consistently seek input from our customers, consumers like yourself, experts in animal husbandry, veterinarians and animal behavior specialists.
We implement and monitor the practices at our farms through an industry-leading Animal Care Policy. This policy is more than just words—it articulates the principles and expectations to which we hold all employees accountable and guides the daily activities of all of our company-owned farms and those of our contract growers. In sum, we want our animals to be safe, comfortable, and healthy. Willful neglect or abuse of animals is not tolerated and will result in immediate termination. When mistakes are made or violations of our policies occur, we correct them.
Third, our website video series is not some slick production glossing over how pork is produced. The employees in the videos are real employees who were not scripted. They were told to express their own feelings about their jobs, and the work they do. And we could never have gotten renowned animal expert Dr. Temple Grandin to present the introduction to the videos if we had misrepresented the facts.
Beyond that, our concerted social responsibility efforts during the past decade have resulted in third-party recognition that we are very proud of. 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, I need to 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 believe we’re on the right track.
Because we are so passionate about doing the right thing, we welcome all who are interested in learning more about our company’s practices and commitments. We stand by the information we provide and our proven track record, which can all be found at smithfieldcommitments.com.
I hope this information addresses your concerns and that we take your opinions very seriously. Thank you for your interest in Smithfield Foods.
Dennis H. Treacy
Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs
and Chief Sustainability Officer