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.
Results Summary of Third Party Audits
Overall scores of less than 100 percent, were due to a loss of points in one or more of the following areas:
- Site Self-Checks and Assessments
- Facility Repairs
- Training (Records)
Where possible, any areas noted during the audit as "Needing Improvement" are corrected before finalizing the audit. If correction before finalizing the audit is not feasible, a corrective action plan and timeline is established and plan implementation is confirmed.
On-Farm Third Party Audits Conducted
Our FarmCheck® program scope is based on a statistical analysis of each protein supply chain. This analysis allows us to determine the number of farms that should be audited each year so that, over a three year period, we can be 99-percent confident that 95-percent or more of our supply chain complies with the standards of the program.
Addressing Animal Well-Being Concerns
In fiscal 2016, there were public reports of three incidents where farmers or team members did not meet our expectations for the proper care and humane handling of animals.
As a company that employs over 114,000 team members and works with more than 9,400 farmers, who raise the animals we process for our food products, we're constantly working to communicate our expectations throughout our workforce and supply chain on important issues such as animal well-being. We do not tolerate mistreatment of animals and immediately take corrective actions for violations of our expectations for the proper care and humane handling of animals, which may include termination of employment or contract.
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. Annual training is also conducted with all contract farmers raising animals for us to ensure they know and follow proper animal well-being expectations and handling practices. Team members are expected to report unacceptable behavior to their supervisor, or they have the option of using our anonymous compliance and Ethics Help Line, which will be posted in all live animal-processing plants.
Third-Party Remote Video Auditing
In 2016, we began implementing third-party remote video auditing of live bird handling at all of our U.S. chicken processing plants. We continue to look at ways to improve this process, and we're exploring the option in our beef and pork operations.
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 technologies to improve animal well-being. Through this policy, we emphasize the importance of responsible animal care and continuous improvement to the independent farmers who supply livestock and poultry to our company. In addition, we understand the importance of the internationally-recognized Five Freedoms for animal well-being and urge independent farmers to strive to follow these fundamental principles.
The Five Freedoms (Animal Well-Being)
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
To drive continuous improvement, we're adding more than 50 Animal Well-Being Specialists to work at our live-animal processing plants in the U.S. These positions will be guided by corporate-based Animal Well-Being Senior Managers who will work collaboratively with our Office of Animal Well-Being and our plants to ensure best-in-class training and practices.
CO2 Stunning for Our Pork Facilities
After extensive research, we recognized the benefits of CO2 stunning systems in pork processing and are diligently working to implement these systems in our fresh pork plants. We’ve already equipped our Logansport, Indiana, and Waterloo, Iowa, pork plants with these systems. Over the next several years, we plan to transition all of our pork plants to CO2 stunning.
With guidance from our FarmCheck® program’s Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel, we seek to find better ways to responsibly care for animals raised for food through scientific study. The panel helps us determine research priorities and ways to improve the FarmCheck® program. With a focus on animal well-being, the panel also provides guidance and direction on various projects throughout the year, such as blueprint reviews on facility design. The panel also helps us make informed decisions about new animal well-being technologies.
We partnered with researchers on potential animal well-being improvements in animal mobility and lameness, antibiotics alternatives, and good production management. As part of this effort, we provided approximately $70,000 in funding for university, agricultural, or company-initiated research. Learn more about our research partnerships and related efforts.
Antibiotic Use in Broiler Chickens
Antibiotic resistance is a global concern, and we want to be a part of a lasting solution.
There are two types of antibiotics:
- Those used to treat illness in both humans and animals, referred to as shared-class antibiotics.
- Antibiotics used in animal health only, which are never used in human health.
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.
We’ve made great progress toward our goal.
Shared-Class Antibiotics Used in Broiler Chicken Production Fiscal 2016
October 4, 2015 - October 1, 2016
Of the broiler chicks placed by Tyson Foods during fiscal 2016, only 1.6 percent were treated on farms by veterinarians with shared-class antibiotics. However, due to constraints in our supply chain, we purchase feed that includes shared-class antibiotics from another poultry company at one location, and we purchase a limited number of broiler chicks from a breeding company that receive a vaccine while inside the egg that includes antibiotic to prevent infection in the embryo. If these two factors were excluded, the total number of Tyson Foods broiler chickens raised without shared-class antibiotics for fiscal 2016 is 98.4 percent.
Why We Sometimes Use Antibiotics in Raising Broiler Chickens
While we’ve made great progress toward our goal, our veterinarians will still prescribe shared-class antibiotics for the health and well-being of sick flocks when no other alternatives are available. It’s the goal of our veterinarians to prescribe the proper antibiotic that treats the disease quickly and most effectively. This is done only when necessary to minimize suffering.
With the exception of the 3.5% of our broiler chickens that were given feed that included shared-class antibiotics in fiscal year 2016, 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. Shared-class antibiotics are sometimes prescribed by our veterinarians to treat sick chickens at specific farms.
The elimination of shared-class antibiotics in our broiler flocks is a process, not an overnight matter. Through continued improvements in animal husbandry; housing; sanitation; selective breeding; and the use of antibiotic alternatives such as essential oils, botanicals, and probiotics, we believe we can improve bird health and reduce the need for shared-class antibiotics.
Antibiotics in Turkey Production
- Approximately 70 percent of our turkeys come from integrated farms raising birds owned by Tyson Foods.
- The remainder of our turkeys are purchased from independent farmers.
- We purchase one-day old turkey poults that are vaccinated at the hatchery from commercial suppliers. Antibiotics are not administered at the hatchery.
- We do not use growth promotion antibiotics or ractopamine in our turkey feed.
- When antibiotics are needed, they are only administered through drinking water under the directive of a veterinarian.
- Our focus is to decrease shared-class antibiotics through innovations and alternatives.
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.
At the farm, our 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 shared-class 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 shared-class antibiotic is required, the veterinarian will provide a written prescription similar to the way medical doctors prescribe antibiotics for humans.
Shared-class antibiotics are not administered for the entire life cycle of the chicken – only for the duration that’s needed pursuant to veterinarian recommendation. Depending on the illness and shared-class 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 antibiotic residues.
Certificates and Partnerships
We actively seek new partnerships and relevant certification programs focused on animal well-being practices.
Our animal well-being team is involved in numerous committees and participates in multiple meetings with customers focused on animal well-being. They're also members of several organizations working to advance animal well-being and participate in industry discussions to further their expertise. We also have team members who are certified members of the Professional Animal Auditor Organization (PAACO) as meat plant auditors and instructors, as well as PAACO poultry welfare auditors.
The USDA Process Verified Program is executed by USDA's Quality Auditing Division. The program serves as a means to evaluate and verify that agricultural processing claims are properly supported by a documented management system with independent verification. Within Tyson Foods, 30 of our poultry processing complexes have Process Verified Programs (PVP) related to restricted antibiotic use.
We also participate in the School Food Focus Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use program. This program is also verified through USDA's PVP services and focuses on minimizing on-farm antibiotics that are considered to be important to human medicine. Click here to learn more about the program.
We're providing funding for a project to better understand the effects of removing tylosin, an antibiotic and bacteriostatic feed additive, from finishing cattle. This project will focus on the performance of roughage (fibrous indigestible material in vegetable foodstuffs that aids the passage of food and waste products through the gut) on cattle growth, carcass characteristics, and prevalence of liver abscesses. The objective of the study is to determine if tylosin and roughage concentration impacts occurrence and levels of antimicrobial-resistance genes and bacteria in the feedyard and processing plant environments.
The University of Arkansas will be looking into the issue of light intensity and length of light exposure for broiler production. We're providing funding for the project, and the data may help improve current practices and bird welfare.
Our Supply Chain and Antibiotics
Most of the animals we use to produce our products are raised by farmers. We rely on more than 9,400 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.
Our chicken operations are vertically integrated, as illustrated below. 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.
In fiscal 2016, we continued to support the industry on antibiotic stewardship, with education being a key focus area. With the change in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Guidance for Industry #209 and #213, which we support, recognized the need to focus on team member and independent farmer education. Under this guidance, animal pharmaceutical companies were required to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion by the end of 2016.
Messaging and education materials were created to inform farmers of the importance of the new guidance and how it would impact their practices as well as the sustainability of the industry.
Additional information was created that offered farmers guidance on how to meet the requirements of 209 and 213 and the importance of consulting with their veterinarian. We also created an information toolkit for our Procurement, Sales and Food Safety Quality Assurance teams to keep them up to date on the efforts taking place to reduce the use of shared-class antibiotics and ensure responsible use when antibiotics are prescribed.