In the past 18 months, we have invested approximately $170,000 in research initiated by universities, agricultural organizations or companies. In addition to the external research that we support, we constantly seek out and pilot the latest innovations in animal welfare best practices within our own operations.
Incubation Technology Center
We opened our Incubation Technology Center in Springdale, Arkansas, during 2017. This 75,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is now the main supplier of chicks for our northwest Arkansas broiler chicken and Cornish hen operations. The facility is equipped with the latest technological advances in biosecurity, including high-tech internal environmental controls and ventilation to ensure that fresh air is continuously circulated throughout.
The Center’s unique incubation technology allows for reduced handling of animals through the use of robotics. Robotic arms benefit animal husbandry, as well as team members by performing repetitive tasks to reduce the risk of strain and muscle fatigue.
Tyson Foods Concept Farm
Another innovation involves piloting a new approach to raising chickens at our proprietary Poultry Concept Farm, an 80-acre research farm in which Tyson Foods’ goal is to research better outcomes for birds, food safety and the environment.
The Concept Farm features a flexible design in order to pilot various projects in as many different settings as possible and iterate those practices according to research findings. The Farm acts as an integrated research hub that facilitates collaboration across functions that are studying animal welfare, environmental improvements, alternatives to antibiotics, lighting tests, operational efficiencies, workplace safety and more. As such, the Concept Farm allows us to look at our operations in a holistic way — connecting the dots between how one animal welfare practice may impact outcomes in another key area. This integrated approach enables all our sustainability pillars to work together to improve in all areas of poultry production.
Testing New Technologies
Using the best scientific research available to us and under the guidance of our advisory board, we continue to explore new technologies to improve animal well-being in our supply chain.
In FY2017, we piloted several new technologies.
Updated Stunning Methods: We have piloted an alternative stunning method, Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS), and currently are applying this technology in our turkey plant and two of our pork plants with plans to expand this to several more plants, including poultry, during FY2018. CAS has the potential to be a more humane harvesting technique by using carbon dioxide, rather than electricity, to render the animal unconscious and insensible to pain in advance of processing.
Future Housing Systems: We support our farming partners in learning new and improved ways of raising and managing their hogs, which we purchase. We began piloting additional housing systems for pregnant sows in FY2017, including open pen gestation. When farmers are building or rebuilding housing systems for sows, we urge them to consider open pen gestation as well since there are advantages to both systems. At the completion of calendar 2017, 45 percent of our sows from our contract farms are housed in open pens. Our target is 58 percent by the end of calendar 2018.
Sustainable Beef Pilot: Tyson Foods, along with McDonald’s USA, Noble Research Institute, Beef Marketing Group (BMG), and Golden State Foods is participating in a two-year pilot research project that seeks to improve sustainability across the entire beef value chain, test metrics established by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and explore scalable solutions that could be applicable to beef production across the country.
Lighting Project: Tyson Foods is conducting research to identify lighting systems that chickens prefer, both from a performance and physiological basis. Initial results across multiple light intensities, including one scenario where chickens choose a bright or dim light, suggest they prefer to eat in bright light and then move to dimmer areas for rest. Neurological markers in the birds indicate a gradient lighting system may provide a more satisfactory environment for the chickens than high-intensity lighting alone. Further exploration is needed and Tyson Foods maintains ongoing research on lighting as well as other management practices that promote animal welfare and natural behaviors.