Dr. Christine Daugherty, Sustainability

Animal Well-Being

We work with thousands of independent farmers every day who help raise the animals we use to produce safe, nutritious food for people all over the world. Ensuring the health and well-being of the animals and treating them responsibly and with respect – it’s simply the right thing to do.

“We serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to us,” is one of our Core Values at Tyson Foods. Our commitment to animal well being helps us put that Core Value at the forefront of everything we do to ensure the needs of our animals are met, while providing our customers and consumers the quality food they expect.

In October 2012, we launched our FarmCheck® program. Through this program, third-party auditors check for such things as animal access to food and water, as well as proper human-animal interaction and worker training at the livestock and poultry farms that supply us.

FarmCheck® Program 2015 Farm Audit Outcomes


Observed Acts of Abuse.


Overall Score.



Observed Acts of Abuse.


Overall Score.



Observed Acts of Abuse.


Overall Score.

*Combined results from Breeder/Pullet and Catch/Transport audits.

  • Site Self Assessments and Records
  • Employee Training and/or Records
  • Daily Observations and/or Records
  • Facility Repair

Where possible, any areas noted during the audit as “needing improvement” are corrected prior to finalizing the audit. If correction prior to finalizing the audit is not feasible, a corrective action plan and timeline is established.

Addressing Animal Well-Being Concerns

As a company that employs over 113,000 team members and works with over 9,700 farmers who raise the animals we process for our food products, we are constantly working to communicate our expectations throughout our workforce and supply chain on important issues such as animal well-being.

In fiscal 2015, there were public reports of four incidents where farmers or team members violated our expectations for the proper care and handling of animals under our Core Values, our Supplier Code of Conduct, or the animal well-being training they received. We take the mistreatment of animals seriously and take corrective actions, which may include termination of employment or contracts.

We believe proper animal handling is an important moral and ethical obligation. Everyone who works with live animals in our plants is trained in humane animal handling practices and instructed to report anything they believe is inappropriate. Team members are encouraged to report unacceptable behavior to their supervisor as well as our compliance and ethics hotline.

We are in the process of installing cameras and other technology that will allow third-party remote video auditing of live bird handling at our U.S. chicken processing plants. We will also be offering additional annual training for the farmers who raise broiler chickens for us to ensure proper animal well-being handling practices are understood and followed.

Our Commitment

Our Commitment to Animal Well‐Being

We strive for sustainable practices in all business areas, including animal well‐being. Our company’s Core Values include a commitment to serve as stewards of the animals entrusted to us. Our Animal Well-Being Policy includes our pledge to be diligent in leading the pursuit of new methods and technology to improve animal well-being, our emphasis of responsible animal care to independent chicken, swine, cattle and turkey farmers, and our understanding of the importance of the internationally recognized five freedoms, which we urge all farmers to strive toward.

  • The Five Freedoms (Animal Well-Being)

    1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
    2. Freedom from discomfort
    3. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
    4. Freedom to express normal behavior
    5. Freedom from fear and distress

Antibiotic Use in Broiler Chickens

Antibiotic resistance is a global concern and we want to be a part of a lasting solution.

We’ve made great progress toward our goal.

Of the chicks placed on farms by Tyson Foods during fiscal 2015, only 6.3 percent of chickens were treated with human antibiotics. However, we’ll point out that, due to constraints in our supply chain, we purchase feed that includes human antibiotics from another poultry company at one location, and we purchase a limited number of chicks from a breeding company that receive a vaccine while inside the egg that includes a small amount of antibiotic to prevent infection in the embryo. If these factors were excluded, the total number of Tyson Foods chickens raised without human antibiotics for fiscal 2015 is 93.7 percent.

Antibiotics in Chicken Fiscal 2015

September 28, 2014 – October 3, 2015

The elimination of human-use antibiotics in our broiler flocks is a process, not an overnight matter. Through continued improvements in housing, sanitation, probiotics, and selective breeding, we believe we can improve bird health and reduce the need for human antibiotics.

  • Antibiotics in Turkey Production

    • Approximately 70 percent of turkeys come from integrated farms raising birds owned by Tyson Foods. The remainder of our turkeys are purchased from independent growers.
    • Our turkey poults are vaccinated at the hatchery; however, the vaccines contain no added antibiotics.
    • We also purchase one-day old turkey poults from commercial suppliers.
    • We do not use antibiotics or ractopamine in our turkey feed.
    • When antibiotics are needed, they are only administered through drinking water.
    • Our focus is to decrease human-use antibiotics through innovations and alternatives.

There are two types of antibiotics:

  1. Those used to treat illness in both humans and animals, referred to as either human or shared-class antibiotics
  2. Antibiotics used in animal health only, which are never used in human health
Shared-Class Antibiotics

Antibiotics are grouped into "classes" based upon how they kill or suppress the growth of bacteria. The vast majority of antibiotic classes are approved for use in both humans and animals, with only a few exceptions that can only be used in one versus the other. Shared-class antibiotics can be administered to both classes – humans and animals.

Growth Promotants

Antibiotics or other drugs used for production purposes (e.g., growth promotion or feed efficiency).

Why We Sometimes Use Antibiotics in Raising Broiler Chickens

While we’ve made great progress toward our goal, our veterinarians will still prescribe human antibiotics for the health and well-being of sick flocks. It’s the goal of our veterinarians to prescribe the proper antibiotic that treats the disease quickly and most effectively.

With the exception of the 3.5% of our broiler chickens that were fed feed that included human antibiotics in fiscal year 2015, we do not use antibiotics for growth promotion in broiler chicken operations. Animal-health-only antibiotics are used in our broiler chicken operations to prevent or control the spread of disease. Human antibiotics are sometimes prescribed by our veterinarians to treat sick chickens at specific farms.

How Antibiotics are administered to Broiler Chickens

Broiler chickens can be given antibiotics in three ways: an injection at the hatchery (in the egg or chick), through their feed, and in drinking water at the farm.

  • October 2014

  • We stopped using all types of antibiotics in our 35 Tyson Foods-owned hatcheries.

  • January 2015

  • We stopped using antibiotics in all company-owned mills that make feed for our broiler chickens.

At the farm, veterinarians will sometimes prescribe antibiotics that are added to drinking water to treat sick chickens or control disease. This is the only way we administer human antibiotics to our broiler chickens because it’s not feasible to treat chickens individually.

Our Veterinarians and Treatment Time

A team of veterinarians and technical specialists perform on-farm visits to assess the nutrition, health, and well-being of our broiler chickens. If they diagnose a flock with a specific disease, and a human antibiotic is required, the veterinarian will provide a written prescription similar to the way medical doctors prescribe antibiotics for humans.

Human antibiotics are not administered for the entire life cycle of the chicken – only for the duration that’s needed. Depending on the illness and human-use antibiotic type, the average treatment lasts three to five days. When antibiotics are used in livestock and poultry, strict withdrawal periods are followed before the animals are processed for food. USDA regularly tests meat and poultry for antibiotic residues and reports the results annually as part of the U.S. National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry and Egg Products. This program ensures that meat and poultry products that go to market are free from any potentially harmful antibiotic residues.

Certifications and Partnerships

We actively seek new partnerships and relevant certification programs focused on animal well-being practices.

  • April 7, 2015

  • Our company successfully completed an audit at its New Holland, Pennsylvania, complex, when the USDA verified that the practices meet the CRAU standard. The U.S. Department of Agriculture verifies compliance with the CRAU standard for suppliers who opt to sell certified chicken to schools, hospitals, and other institutional customers.

  • June 2, 2015

  • We participated in the “White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship.” As part of the event, more than 150 food companies, retailers, and human and animal health stakeholders highlighted commitments to implement changes over the next five years to slow the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

For consumers who want meat from farm animals that have never been given antibiotics for any purpose, we offer our NatureRaised Farms® brand, Open Prairie Natural Angus® brand, and Open Prairie Natural Pork™ brand products.

Our Supply Chain and Antibiotics

Most of the animals we use to produce our products are not raised by us. We rely on more than 9,700 independent farmers and expect them to provide healthy chickens, cattle, hogs and turkeys that have been treated properly and raised with modern, proven animal care practices.

Vertical Integration

Our chicken operations are vertically integrated, as illustrated above. This model allows us to manage antibiotic use over the lifespan of the birds we own even before they arrive at our processing facilities. For cattle, hogs and the majority of our turkeys, we rely on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for guidance and must seek solutions collaboratively with our suppliers. We recognize and support the FDA‘s 209 and 213 guidance for industry. Under this guidance, animal pharmaceutical companies have agreed to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion by the end of 2016.

In fiscal 2015, we began forming working groups with independent farmers and others in our cattle, hog and turkey supply chains to discuss ways to reduce the use of human antibiotics on cattle, hog and turkey farms.

  • Cattle Workgroup

  • Our cattle workgroup met in July 2015 and then again in October 2015. They are currently discussing possible antibiotic models, industry involvement, and collaboration with other working groups.

  • Hog Workgroup

  • Our hog workgroup met in June 2015 and again in August 2015. They are comparing standards around antibiotic use in hog production and developing a hog supplier antibiotic stewardship survey. The survey is designed to establish a benchmark of antibiotic use and stewardship for the industry to monitor and continually improve upon.

  • Turkey Workgroup

  • We have established a turkey supply chain workgroup to discuss antibiotic stewardship; however, meetings for this group were postponed due to the avian influenza outbreaks that struck the egg and turkey producers in spring 2015.