Producing a safe, nutritious food product begins with ensuring the health and well-being of the animals we raise and process. Tyson Foods has a long-standing commitment to the well-being and proper handling of the animals used in its food products. It is an expectation expressed in our Core Values, which calls for us to “serve as stewards of the animals, land, and environment entrusted to us.” This is not only the right thing to do; it is also an important moral and ethical obligation we owe to our suppliers, customers, ourselves, and most importantly, to the animals we depend on for our products and our livelihood.

As part of our commitment to animal well-being, we established the Office of Animal Well-Being in 2000. Specifically, the responsibilities of this office at Tyson Foods include:

  • Advising our executive and management teams on animal well-being issues, and working directly with customers and trade groups on these issues;
  • Advising producer organizations in the development of animal well-being guidelines, self-assessments, audit criteria, and the determination of acceptable limits;
  • Performing random animal-handling audits at Tyson Foods’ slaughter facilities, and trending monthly internal audit results;
  • Developing animal well-being training videos and written materials, and ensuring facilities conduct training sessions with Team Members that handle live animals; and
  • Presenting programs and describing company and industry animal well-being practices to groups of professionals, producers, customers, and consumers.

Our commitment to animal well-being helps us maintain the critical balance between ensuring the needs of our animals are met and providing our customers and consumers with the quality food products they deserve. Review our Animal Well-Being Mission Statement.

Animal Well-Being Programs and Practices
We have developed and implemented animal well-being programs and practices for all segments of our business: chicken, beef, and pork. The programs consist of training for Team Members that handle and work with live animals; on-going process monitoring; and internal and third-party audits and reviews. While these programs and practices differ based on the animal, we believe they demonstrate our proactive commitment to the proper rearing, handling, and slaughter of chickens, and the handling and slaughter of cattle and swine. Below are examples of specific programs and practices we have implemented.

  • All Team Members handling live animals must receive annual training. They must successfully pass a written test to assure their understanding of proper handling techniques and sign an agreement to comply with Tyson Foods’ chicken, beef, and pork animal well-being requirements. Team Members found in violation of any of these requirements are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.
  • Best-practice system assessments and chicken-handling audits are implemented in our hatcheries and slaughter facilities for chickens. Facility management teams conduct weekly chicken-handling and well-being audits in accordance with the National Chicken Council’s Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist, and facility-based Food Safety and Quality Assurance technicians conduct monthly chicken-handling and well-being verification audits in our slaughter facilities.
  • In our beef and pork processing plants, we utilize a risk-based process called RACE (Risk Analysis, Controls and Evaluations) which is a systematic approach to management and continuous improvement of our Humane Handling and Slaughter programs. This Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) approach is a common quality tool used to improve the reliability of a process. Implemented in 2008, RACE has been instrumental in revitalizing and improving our previous “SOP-GMP approach” for programs and procedures of humane handling and slaughter in our beef and pork slaughter plants. RACE provides a formalized platform that guides each facility in risk assessment for conditions (old or new) that warrant change to the facility or existing procedures, in order to avoid and prevent egregious or offensive situations or events, and to minimize excitement, discomfort, and accidental injury to livestock in our care. The RACE program’s ‘risk assessment’ format and flow process has made it relatively easy to gain plant buy-in, implementation, and understanding at our plants, as it was something that looked, smelled, and felt similar to what was familiar to our Team Members in the plant, i.e., HACCP. RACE, however, is not HACCP, and is not a ‘regulatory’ program. RACE has been well received by plants, and by USDA observers. It has successfully moved our Animal well-being programs forward.
  • We engage with our animal transportation partners, Family Farmers, and various industry associations to promote further programs and practices aimed at animal well-being. For example, in addition to our support of the National Pork Board’s We CareSM Initiative, we provide manuals that recommend good management and well-being practices to the drivers who transport live animals to our plants. We also have management personnel certified in the Trucker Quality Assurance Program, developed by the National Pork Board, to train drivers who haul swine.

FarmCheck® Program Logo In October 2012, Tyson Foods announced the launch of the FarmCheck® Program. Through this program, Tyson Foods will audit the treatment of animals at the livestock and poultry farms that supply the company. Farm audits, which are part of the FarmCheck® program, have already begun on the independent hog farms that supply the company. Auditors are visiting the farms to focus on proper human-animal interactions, checking the overall well-being of the animals, looking at things such as animal access to food and water, appropriate animal-handling procedures, and worker training and certifications. The initial FarmCheck® farm audits are being conducted on independent swine farms, and will expand to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014. The FarmCheck® audits will be conducted by joint efforts of Tyson Foods experts in our Office of Animal Well-Being and will be broadened to include independent third-party auditing firms in 2013. Tyson Foods also plans to develop a new Farm Animal Well-Being Research Program to review existing research, as well as fund and promote additional research that the company believes will lead to continued improvements in animal-raising methods.

The FarmCheck® program will be guided by a newly created, external Animal Well-Being Advisory Committee that Tyson Foods is establishing. Those selected to serve will include people with expertise in farm-animal behavior, health, production, and ethics. The committee is expected to begin its work in March 2013 and will help Tyson Foods determine research priorities and ways to improve the FarmCheck® Program. Tyson Foods has selected a special team of senior leaders from key areas of the company to oversee the FarmCheck® program, and the company’s interaction with the external advisory committee.

Key Animal Well-Being Topics Raised by Stakeholders
We are committed to evaluating and managing the animal well-being issues of greatest concern to our stakeholders. Below we provide insight into our management approach regarding some of the most common questions or concerns raised by our animal well-being stakeholders.

Housing of Broiler and Breeder Chickens – We do not raise our broiler chickens or our breeder chickens that lay the eggs that become the broilers for our food products in cages. Both our broiler and breeder chickens are raised in open barns. These barns offer adequate ventilation and lighting, as many are equipped with curtains that are raised during good weather, allowing for natural light and fresh air. They are also equipped with automated systems that deliver feed and water to the chickens on an as needed basis. The floor of a barn is covered with plant-based recyclable materials, such as rice hulls or pine shavings. The barns provide a comfortable environment in which the chickens can move freely with protection from inclement weather, extreme temperatures, disease, and predators. We maintain strict policies regarding the location, size, and stocking density of the barns used to raise our chickens, for both company-owned and independent producer operations. We continue to investigate new technologies on various methods to house and raise our chickens. These measures are critical to ensuring the health and biosecurity of our chickens and the safety of our food products.

Gestation Stalls for Sows – We make animal well-being decisions based on best available scientific research and the recommendations of animal well-being experts in the industry. Current information indicates there are several types of production systems that are favorable for pigs, including open pens, individual housing, and open pasture. According to published studies, the most important consideration is the individual care given to each animal and the caretaker’s management and husbandry skills, regardless of the system used. Furthermore, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians have reviewed the existing scientific literature on gestational sow housing and have published position statements concluding that, individual and group housing systems both have advantages and disadvantages. We’re committed to humane animal treatment at all stages of food production and we expect the same from farms that supply us with livestock. In early 2012, we called on the hog farming industry to accelerate research into improved housing and production practices. We urge this research be completed as soon as possible in order to address questions and market demands.

Tyson Foods buys hogs from thousands of family farms, many of whom have individual sow housing, some of whom have group pen sow housing. Experts believe both housing systems are humane for the sows when managed properly. As our customers provide consumers with choices, we will continue to work to meet those needs.

Physical Alteration of Chickens – As with many animals that live or travel in flocks and herds, broiler chickens naturally establish a “pecking order.” This natural behavior can lead to instances of undesirable behaviors such as injurious pecking and clawing on one another, and sometimes cannibalism. We do not practice beak trimming or toe trimming in broilers, nor do our independent poultry producers. Instead, we carefully monitor the conditions and stocking densities of our company-owned and independent producer broiler houses to minimize fighting, feather pecking, and other injurious behaviors.

Stunning Methods – We continue to evaluate optimal methods for stunning animals. In 2006, we conducted a study evaluating the effectiveness of Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS). During the study, we considered numerous key factors including, but not limited to, animal well-bring, food safety, product quality, workplace safety, and other available scientific research. Based on our study, we believe CAS can be an acceptable alternative to conventional electrical stunning; however, it is not more humane.

Safe Transport – The transport of animals to the processing plant is an important animal well-being issue. Research shows that, in addition to numerous well-being benefits, careful and quiet animal handling during loading, transport, and unloading can produce meat quality benefits as well. It is for these reasons we implemented the American Meat Institute Transportation Audit Guidelines for Cattle and Hogs at all our beef and pork processing facilities in 2010. These guidelines contain two sets of audit criteria related to animal well-being during transport. The first set of audit criteria evaluates a processing facility’s policies and preparedness for receiving animals including minimization of wait time; weather, environmental and emergency management plans; acceptable handling tools; non-slip flooring; adequate lighting; and the staff available to receive animals. The second set of audit criteria focuses on the set-up, loading and unloading, timely arrival, and condition of the trailers used to transport the animals to the processing facility. We believe the implementation of these guidelines will better enable us to identify opportunities for continual improvement with regards to the loading, transport, and unloading of our cattle and hogs.

Chicken Nutrition and Health
Tyson Foods works hard every day to earn and maintain consumer trust. We know that the healthiest chickens produce the best products. We also know that animal health, just like human health, depends on a healthy diet, good preventive health practices and a safe and comfortable environment. We strive to provide all of these elements to our chickens, all of the time. We do this in cooperation with more than 4,200 Family Farmers with whom we contract to raise our chickens. And we employ specially trained and licensed veterinarians to guide our breeding, feeding, and well-being practices to be sure we are following the latest professional guidance.

Tyson Foods only uses feed ingredients approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and administers them only according to veterinary assessments and under veterinary supervision. Each flock of birds and grow-out location typically has different animal health needs. As a result, we may use different animal health products and feed formulations at different locations, according to the birds’ needs. Just like our finished product recipes, our feed formulations are proprietary and may vary from complex to complex, and even seasonally. We do not disclose specific feed formulations for specific grow-out locations to the public. However, we can say that FDA-approved antibiotics and antimicrobials may sometimes be used by Tyson Foods for the well-being of our chickens. Tyson Foods also complies with federal regulations prohibiting the use of added hormones or steroids in any chicken product.

Cattle and Hog Health
Tyson Fresh Meats is committed to producing wholesome, unadulterated meat products for consumers. While we do not raise our own cattle or hogs, we do purchase livestock from multiple independent farmers, and we forge partnerships with those farmers, dealers, and marketers to achieve safe, wholesome foods.

It is a violation of Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to sell livestock for slaughter that may contain drug residues or chemicals that exceed tolerances in meat established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) Residue Monitoring Program requires routine testing of meat and animal organs to ensure that livestock producers have followed safe production methods, regarding any pharmaceutical use. USDA inspectors visually check each animal at the packing plant for signs that they were managed with safe production methods, regarding use of veterinary drugs and hormones. In the rare instance of a violative drug residue finding, the animal’s carcass and all parts are condemned. In such cases, USDA notifies FDA of the violation, and FDA in turn contacts the livestock producer.

Tyson Fresh Meats supports the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Beef Quality Assurance Program and the National Pork Board’s PQA Plus® Program which stress the importance of producers controlling drug residues in their livestock. A unified commitment to animal health helps maintain the critical balance between ensuring that the health needs of our animals are met and providing our customers and consumers with the quality food products they deserve.

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