WASHINGTON – Agribusiness company Cargill Inc. has told an animal rights group it is phasing out the use of the small, metal crates that house pregnant pigs.

The decision is the latest example of a U.S. company putting greater emphasis on animal welfare.

Cargill, based in Wayzata, Minn., made the announcement in a recent letter, obtained by The Associated Press, to the Humane Society of the United States. The company was responding to the group’s request to follow the lead of Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork processor, which announced in January it was phasing out the gestation crates.[…]