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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network.

A Signal to Hog Producers: Cargill to Stop Use of Gestation Crates

Sarah McCammon for Harvest Public Media

Cargill, one of the country’s largest pork producers, announced Monday it will stop using gestation crates.

The controversial narrow cages are meant to house and separate sows. Cargill is joining other major meatpackers, like competitors Tyson and Smithfield Foods, in planning to move away from hog crates.

Many hog farmers say it’s important to separate sows in order to ensure healthy births and that the crates are an efficient way to do that. But animal rights advocates have long opposed gestation crates, which severely restrict animal movement.

The Humane Society of the United States cheered Cargill’s announcement in a press release.

The housing of pigs on conventional farms has made the leap from niche issue to consumer topic in recent years. Mainstream food companies embracing crate-free hog production sends a signal to hog producers across the country, according to David Aiken, an agricultural law specialist at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

“I think the direction is pretty clear, if the only kind of pork they’re going to buy is cage-free, more and more producers are going to have to go that way.”

Producers are under pressure to change not only from animal welfare groups but also food companies. Dozens of companies from McDonald’s to ConAgra to Safeway are transitioning to buying pork from hogs raised without gestation crates.

“They are the ones that say ‘We want this. Our consumers want this,’” Aiken said. “’We’ve made our commitments of when we’re going to have the group housing.’”

About 80 percent of sows in the U.S. spend most of their lives in gestation crates, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which recently published a lengthy report on Cargill’s hog-raising facilities.

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.