Tyson Foods, Inc. on Friday announced the launch of a program to audit the treatment of animals at the livestock and poultry farms that supply the company.
"We know more consumers want assurance their food is being produced responsibly, and we think two important ways to do that are by conducting on-farm audits while also continuing to research ways to improve how farm animals are raised," says Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods
Tyson works with more than 12,000 independent livestock and poultry farmers, including 5,000 family poultry farmers, 3,000 family hog farmers and 4,000 family cattle farmers. The company employs more than a dozen veterinarians and maintains an Office of Animal Well-being.
Smith says he wants people to know that Tyson cares enough to check farms, "and we're determined to help find better ways to care for and raise healthy animals," he says.
"We believe the farmers who supply us are the best in the world, and I think the audits will verify this. But, if we find problems, we want them fixed right away. To our knowledge, no other major U.S. meat or poultry company offers this kind of service to its farmers, customers and consumers," Smith adds.
The audits – called the Tyson FarmCheck Program – have already begun on a trial basis on some of the 3,000 independent hog farms that supply the company. Auditors are visiting the farms to check on such things as animal access to food and water, as well as proper human-animal interaction and worker training.
The FarmCheck program has been under development since early spring 2012. Although Tyson personnel have been conducting the audits so far, the company plans to ultimately involve independent, third party auditors. It also intends to expand the program to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014. The audits are being developed by veterinarians and animal welfare specialists and are expected to include measures that build upon current voluntary farm industry programs.
"These audits will give us a chance to correct any minor problems that are discovered and, if necessary, to stop doing business with any farms where animal treatment or conditions do not meet our standards," Smith says.
The company 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.
"We want to identify and study the critical points – from breeding to harvesting – where the quality of life for livestock and poultry can be improved, and use the results to make a difference," Smith says.
Both the FarmCheck program and the research programs will be reviewed by a newly established external Animal Well-Being Advisory Committee. 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, Inc. is headquartered in Springdale, Ark., and is one of the world's largest processors of chicken, beef and pork. The company employs nearly 115,000 at more than 400 worldwide facilities.