We seek to continuously improve animal welfare standards throughout our supply chain and expect the same of our independent and contract farmer partners.
Responsibly raising the number of animals within our supply chain takes thousands of independent grain farmers, livestock farmers, service technicians, transportation operators and Tyson Foods team members to care for, handle, transport and harvest animals. For this reason, we work across our supply chain to ensure best practices are followed at every step in the animal life cycle, from breeding through harvest.
The relationship with farmers in the U.S. is unique in many aspects. Almost all of our cattle and hogs come from independent farmers, ranchers and feedlot operators. While we own a small swine breeding subsidiary, which consists of company-owned and contract farms, we buy most of our hogs from farmers who raise their own animals. We occasionally purchase cattle to be placed in independently owned feed lots but we source the majority of our cattle from independent ranchers and growers. For U.S. poultry operations, we buy the grain that is used as feed and pay contract farmers to raise our poultry.
Utilizing sound science, expertise and skill, farmers continuously strive to improve and further strengthen their responsibilities as animal producers. In our vertically integrated poultry and hog operations, we rely on our veterinarians and service technicians to ensure optimal animal husbandry, nutrition, sanitation and housing practices to support animal health and welfare on-farm and in our harvest facilities. Ongoing research conducted with academic partners, at the Tyson Foods Center for Sustainable Poultry Welfare Research informs the practices we follow in raising broiler chickens.
Tyson Foods is dedicated to preserving the health and welfare of the animals within our supply chain while protecting food safety and public health. To reduce the potential of the development of antibiotic resistance, we rely on the guidelines for responsible use of antibiotics that are defined in BQA, PQA Plus and the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP) and that are based on judicious antibiotic use principles outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Responsible use practices rely on preventive strategies such as biosecurity, animal welfare programs, proven management practices, vaccination programs, sanitation programs, routine health monitoring programs and veterinary oversight to minimize the potential need for antibiotic therapy. We work within our direct supply chain and with independent farmers and others in Tyson Foods’ cattle, hog and turkey supply chains to promote these practices.
We are a founding member of the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public-private collaboration launched by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research in 2019. Consisting of a cross-functional stakeholder group representing all stages of the US livestock supply chains, ICASA serves to promote judicious antibiotic use and advance animal health and welfare through collaborative research that will help us understand the causes of animal health challenges, develop and deploy practical solutions that enable targeted use while maintaining efficacy, and ultimately shed light on the contributing factors of antibiotic resistance. Through these public-private investments, new technologies and management practices can be adopted across the industry to support our goal of responsible antibiotics use, a safe and sustainable food supply, and healthy communities.
Team members who work with live animals in our plants are trained in humane animal handling practices and are expected to report anything they believe is inconsistent with our welfare program expectations to their supervisor or our anonymous ethics and compliance hotline.
In all of our harvest facilities, we use Tyson Foods’ CARE robust systematic approach to manage humane handling policies and procedures. CARE is founded upon the core standards identified through NAMI, NCC and NTF guidelines. Our approach builds upon these by continuously documenting all processes and protocols associated with live animal handling and harvest, identifying potential risks or opportunities for noncompliance, and implementing improved processes to mitigate or minimize. CARE provides a system for continuous improvement in these areas and has three main components. We begin by documenting each step in the animal handling process from live animal receiving through harvest. We then evaluate each step to identify potential incidents that could result in excessive excitement, discomfort or accidental injury to the animal. If an opportunity for a potential risk or incident exists, we implement processes to mitigate or minimize those risks. This program meets or exceeds NAMI, NCC and NTF guidelines.
Safe and proper handling includes optimizing stocking densities and travel times, ensuring proper ventilation and protecting the animals from harsh weather conditions during loading, transport and unloading of animals. Our team members and those who transport for us are required to follow a rigorous set of guidelines that govern our transportation activities aimed at protecting animals. This training includes basic animal behavior and low stress handling techniques to facilitate calm, efficient animal-paced movement, thus decreasing stress and avoiding injuries. In addition, our chicken and turkey specialists working in our U.S. operations are certified to teach the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association’s Poultry Handling and Transportation (PHT) Certification Program. All transporters delivering cattle to our beef harvest facilities are required to be certified under the Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) program. All drivers who transport hogs are required to be certified in the Transport Quality Assurance Program, developed by the National Pork Board. Verification of the transporters’ training is conducted at live animal receiving at the harvest facilities.
Our goal is to avoid the transport of live animals for more than eight hours during transport to the harvest facility. Due to the geographic profile of independent supply chains, along with the need to operate our harvest facilities in an efficient manner, we occasionally encounter longer transport times. Our processing plants maintain standard procedures for receiving live animals that require unloading animals as soon as possible, providing water in holding pens and feeding the animals if they are kept for longer than 24 hours. We also maintain emergency management plans for motor-vehicle accidents involving animals in transport.