Animal Supply Chain Welfare Practices.
Below are practices followed across our poultry (chicken and turkey), cattle and swine supply chains.
The broiler chickens we raise at Tyson Foods originate from roosters and hens that are purchased as chicks from a poultry genetics company. This company uses an animal husbandry practice that has been well known for nearly 100 years—selective breeding. With this type of genetic selection, birds are chosen that express many important health and welfare traits, including leg strength, cardiovascular health, strong immune systems and production traits like appropriate growth rate, efficient conversion of feed to meat and white meat yield. We purchase day old turkeys, known as “poults” from an independent hatchery. These poults go straight to our independent contract farms to be raised as meat turkeys. Globally, we do not knowingly purchase any genetically engineered animals or animal products for our processing operations.
Our roosters and hens may have special procedures applied to them as chicks to ensure a healthy life. Males may be toe-conditioned to remove the sharp nail that can injure hens during mating, and beaks of males and females are conditioned so they cannot use it to injure other birds. During the months of March through August, we request that trained staff at the turkey hatchery remove the small bud that would develop into their “snood”. Removing the snood prevents potential injuries caused by these Tom Turkeys rough-housing during the summer months. Turkey poults are also beak conditioned with microwave technology to reduce the risk of injury, but we do not practice toe conditioning. We are investigating management practices that would eliminate the need to perform these procedures. Physical alterations are not performed on our broiler chickens.
When our roosters and hens reach an age that they produce fertile hatching eggs, the eggs are collected and transported to our hatcheries where they are incubated and hatched into broiler chicks. Hatcheries are monitored for cleanliness, proper temperature and humidity to ensure healthy chicks. We vaccinate the chicks while they are still in the egg and after they hatch. Vaccinating at the hatchery helps promote the health of the chick throughout the time they are on the farm. Animal welfare specialists conduct weekly audits and review human-animal interactions, training and record keeping. The hatcheries are also visited annually by a third-party auditor.
Chicks are transported to the independent contract farms within hours of hatching. They are transported on environmentally controlled trucks so that their ride to the farm, usually less than two hours, is stress-free.
Before chicks or poults arrive at the farm, the houses are prepared and heated to provide an environment that is designed to provide for their needs. Chicks and poults are placed carefully in the house along with feed, water and heat so they can find the resources they need almost immediately. Farmers provide daily care for the birds, walk through the flocks routinely to identify any changes needed to the ventilation equipment, and remove and humanely euthanize any birds that cannot access feed or water using methods that are approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Farmers focus on key areas in the house, including the quality of the litter that covers the floor which provides an absorbent and cushioning environment. Litter condition is important to the welfare of the birds, and that is why we monitor the condition of the paws (foot pad) of broiler chickens and turkeys. Condition of the paws is an import Key Welfare Indicator for the environment of the litter in the house.
At each step of raising birds, Tyson Foods has trained technicians to act as liaisons between the farmer and Tyson Foods. They provide technical help and support to the farmers and conduct welfare audits. Animal welfare audits on farms are also conducted by animal welfare specialists and third-party auditors.
One hundred percent of the poultry raised to support our global supply chain are kept in enclosed houses to protect them from bad weather, extreme temperatures, diseases and predators. In our global commercial supply chain, the majority of birds are raised cage-free. Some of our farms in China use colony-style houses. Stocking density, the number of birds within the available space in the barn, is carefully calculated to ensure that all birds can easily move to access feed and water, express normal behavior, and to comply with accepted standards. Houses are equipped with specially designed equipment to deliver nutritionally balanced feed and fresh water to ensure the birds meet the correct dietary requirements to support a healthy life. The floor of a typical barn is covered with plant-based recyclable materials, such as wood shavings or rice hulls. The barns use automatic equipment to provide lighting and ventilation to maintain a climate-controlled environment that meets the birds’ needs for their age. Our research suggests that broilers prefer different levels of light for eating or rest, and we continue to conduct experimental trials to determine the ideal living conditions for the poultry that our farmers raise.
Tyson Foods promotes responsible use of antibiotics to treat chickens and turkeys that become ill from bacterial disease. We do not use antibiotics to prevent diseases from occurring. When possible, we use antibiotic alternatives that may include probiotics, essential oils and certain mineral salts. If these treatments don’t work, a veterinarian will provide a prescription for the appropriate antibiotic to prevent or treat disease. In these cases, producers must comply with all applicable laws relating to withdrawal time adherence. In the U.S., to ensure compliance with these laws and that all products are safe for human consumption, all of our meat and poultry harvest facilities have programs in place and participate in the FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) surveillance programs for drug residues. We’ve made significant progress in eliminating the use of shared-class antibiotics in the U.S. (those that are also important to human medicine).
To put our antibiotic use in further context, we are the world’s largest producer of No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) chicken. This means these chickens are never given antibiotics in any phase of their lives, from egg to market age. All chickens raised for the Tyson® retail brand in the U.S. are considered NAE. Any flocks treated with antibiotics are segregated and sold through a different sales channel and not under the Tyson retail brand label.
U.S. and international law prohibit the use of added hormones or steroids in chicken or turkey. In accordance with those laws, we don’t allow hormones or steroids to be administered within our supply chain.
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. This training is aimed at teaching poultry transportation and catch crews best practices and methods in biosecurity, disease recognition, emergency planning and the safe and humane handling of birds before, during and after transport. On turkey farms, contractors who may be on farms or have contact with turkeys must undergo this training as well, and we were the first major poultry producer to implement this certification.
Our U.S. chicken and turkey plants comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Poultry Products Inspection Act, the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines and the National Turkey Federation Animal Care Best Management Practices, which are designed to ensure the humane harvest of poultry.
In our turkey plant, we use Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) using CO2 to render the animals insensible to pain prior to harvest. We currently use CAS, which eliminates the handling of conscious birds, in two of our poultry plants and have four more systems scheduled for installation over the next four years. All poultry we raise or purchase are electrically stunned or stunned using CAS and insensible prior to harvest.
Our North American suppliers share our responsibility to proper animal care and handling, as they have a vested interest in the success of their operations and the industry.
Cattle must have access to feed and water daily. Cattle can eat diverse diets, but a typical ration contains a high proportion of grain (i.e., corn, milo, barley and grain by-products) and a smaller proportion of roughages (i.e., hay, straw, silage, hulls). Feed ingredients included in the ration meet the necessary criteria for nutrient utilization. Suppliers ensure that feed and water supplies remain safe: feed ingredients are stored in a fashion to minimize spoilage and contamination, and water troughs are cleaned according to protocols.
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a national program that provides guidelines for beef cattle production, and all of our direct beef suppliers are BQA trained. Preparation and management of site-specific protocols and standard operating procedures consistent with BQA standards are essential not only for animal health and welfare, but the success of the operation in general.
Accurate record-keeping and documentation of specific activities and processes demonstrate that standard operating procedures and management plans are being followed. Record review aids in the evaluation of the effectiveness of a site’s management strategy.
At a minimum, documentation must be available for the following:
For our direct cattle supply chain, we encourage the use of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association standards for age and weight when practices such as dehorning and castration are performed. Verification that these guidelines are followed is completed through FarmCheck® program audits. Globally, we do not knowingly purchase any genetically engineered animals or animal products for our processing operations.
The cattle we source are raised in open pens that are maintained for proper drainage and dust control. Through FarmCheck® program verification audits, we confirm facilities and equipment are in good repair and appropriate for use. Pens are maintained to demonstrate good housekeeping and to allow for animals to have a dry area to lie down. We routinely evaluate body space, meaning that penned cattle have room to lie down without having to lie on another animal. Pen space allocations will vary depending upon weather conditions and animal size. These space allocations provide adequate room for working space when animals are moved out of a pen.
Healthy animals mean safe and healthy food, so we seek to ensure the livestock we depend on are raised responsibly. We buy cattle for our beef harvest facilities from independent farmers and ranchers.
We require our suppliers to treat sick animals and prioritize animal welfare. Daily observations take place to monitor animals and facilities for any sign of illness or injury so that prompt attention can be given to address discomfort. Working closely with a veterinarian, operations establish herd health plans to address their unique challenges and bolster the overall health of animals on site.
Vaccination protocols and parasite control are encouraged to help minimize and prevent disease. Body condition scoring is used as a scientifically approved method to assess nutritional status. Any ill or suffering cattle must have veterinary oversight or consultation for diagnosis and treatment. Any therapeutic treatments administered should be recorded for each individual animal. When euthanasia is needed, it must be performed by a trained employee utilizing an American Veterinary Medical Association-approved method and in a timely manner.
We work with our suppliers on implementing best practices to ensure proper health and welfare. This includes working closely with veterinarians and nutritionists to follow guidance set forth in the BQA program, for responsible antibiotic use. We expect all Tyson Foods suppliers to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. This includes those established through FDA Guidance 209 & 213, which supports judicious use of medically important antibiotics through veterinary oversight and policy and label changes.
To address the issue of responsible antibiotic use and combating antimicrobial resistance, we work with and rely upon the food industry, government, veterinary, public health and academic communities. For example, we actively participate in organizations like ICASA, we allow research and collection of samples at our plants, and transparently address questions related to our producers’ practices and use of antibiotics. We also provide funding to accelerate research into disease prevention and antibiotic alternatives on the farm. In 2019, Tyson Foods was a founding member and active participant in an initiative developed by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) that supports outcomes-driven research and training related to antimicrobial stewardship on farm. While this initiative is still in its infancy, we are excited to embark on this journey with FFAR, as we believe it is part of our responsibility to support the industry with this endeavor and achieve sustainable results.
In North America, cattle farmers and ranchers may use small amounts of approved growth promotants in beef production to increase the rate of lean weight gain in animals, keeping beef affordable and thereby contributing to a sustainable food supply. The FDA has set strict tolerance levels for these products, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA carefully monitors beef for growth promotant residues. For consumers who want beef from farm animals that have never been given antibiotics or hormones for any purpose, we offer a line of all natural (no artificial ingredients, vegetarian diet, minimally processed) beef products through our Open Prairie® Natural Angus brand.
The proper handling and transport of cattle can reduce sickness, prevent injury and improve the quality of the meat from these animals. In North America, effective January 2020, all transporters delivering cattle to our beef harvest facilities were required to be certified under the Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) program. We use the NAMI Transport Audit Guidelines at all our beef harvest facilities.
All team members, contract workers and visitors are required to go through Tyson Foods animal welfare training prior to entering live animal areas. PAACO-certified red meat auditors are the only other individuals allowed in these areas. Animal welfare specialists based in each plant receive PAACO red meat training and internal auditor certification.
Annual training, based on the guidelines set forth by NAMI, is also conducted to ensure team members know and follow proper animal welfare expectations and handling practices. A test is administered to ensure understanding of proper techniques, and team members must sign an agreement to comply with requirements. Job-specific and situational scenario training is provided to relevant team members on a routine basis. Team members are expected to report unacceptable behavior to their supervisor or use our anonymous ethics and compliance hotline, which is posted in all live animal harvest plants.
In the U.S., our beef plants comply with NAMI-recommended animal handling guidelines to support compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act, a federal law designed to ensure animals are humanely stunned and insensible to pain prior to harvest. This is verified across every plant by a Public Health Veterinarian (PHV) assigned by the USDA-FSIS.
The vast majority of our U.S. harvest facilities are raised by independent producers. Through shared values to animal welfare, we emphasize responsible animal care and a focus on continuous improvement. This is demonstrated through proper care for pigs, provision of quality nutrition and other best practices as generally defined by Pork Quality Assurance PLUS (PQA Plus®) guidelines. In support of this, suppliers are required to maintain PQA Plus® training and certification, as well as participate in our FarmCheck® on farm verification program.
In support of this, preparation and management of site-specific protocols are essential not only for animal health and welfare, but the success of the operation in general. Each operation has standard operating procedures in place to effectively address the health, care, handling and overall welfare of the animals— as specified through PQA Plus® program. Accurate record-keeping and documentation of certain activities or processes demonstrate that the operation’s SOPs and management plan are being followed. Records also aid in the evaluation of the effectiveness of a site’s management strategy.
All farm caretakers have a responsibility to protect and promote the welfare of animals in their care. In addition to PQA Plus® training and certification, caretakers receive training on protocols specific to their duties, facilitating proper evaluation and prompt delivery of care necessary to address any animal health, facility or management issues.
Daily monitoring ensures that all animals have access to feed and water. High-quality feed that meets the nutritional needs of the hogs on a specific farm, is free of contaminants and adheres to any applicable requirements for added medications is essential for the welfare, growth and maintenance of pigs, as well as ensuring a safe and wholesome pork product.
The handling and moving of pigs is done by caretakers and transporters trained in basic pig behavior principles, using techniques appropriate for the age and condition of the animal(s). Piglet care and management plans are developed with consideration for the health, welfare and productivity of the herd—following recommendations and best practices established through PQA Plus® program and American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV). In general, procedures such as teeth clipping, tail docking, castration and identification methods such as ear notching should be performed only when necessary and early on to allow for proper healing prior to weaning. They should only be performed by trained individuals with appropriate and clean equipment/tools. Efforts remain underway throughout the industry to identify and develop practical, effective and legal pain mitigation options, at which point such methods will be supported. Globally, we do not knowingly purchase any genetically engineered animals or animal products for our processing operations.
Timely euthanasia is critical to support animal welfare. In the U.S., every site should have a plan in place to address appropriate methods and equipment for euthanasia that complies with AASV On-Farm Euthanasia of Swine Guidelines. Caretakers should be trained in both performing euthanasia as well as determining when it is appropriate.
Across the pork supply chain animal welfare is heavily dependent upon the environments in which the animals are raised. Through years of learning, science and innovation, pork producers have been able to identify key practices of raising pigs that are conducive to animal health and welfare. These good management practices are laid out in the guidelines within the PQA Plus® program. While actual housing systems in use across the pork supply chain vary due to geography, capacity, production phase and animal age, key aspects across all operation types include good management, proper training, provision of quality animal care, veterinary oversight and facility maintenance. Within each system, specialized tools and equipment are used to ensure the delivery of nutritious food, clean water and protection from the elements, predators and diseases.
Daily observations take place to monitor animals and facilities for signs of illness or injury so that prompt attention can be given to address any situation. Air quality and temperature control measures are in place to further aid in creating the best possible environment that promotes a positive experience for both the animals and the caretakers who raise them. As part of the supply chain from which we procure market hogs, 100 percent are raised in open pen systems, and growers are expected to incorporate best management practices provided through PQA.
Our expectations on proper animal care and welfare naturally extend to all swine associated with our supply chain, including mother pigs, or sows. Sow housing systems are generally either traditional individual stalls or open/group pens. We recognize that there are differing views on which option constitutes optimal welfare and on appropriate specifications for each. We engage with various producer, industry and academic groups to provide guidance based on housing options and standards that foster ideal welfare and prove applicable to all swine operations, considering size, geography and management technique.
Beginning in 2007, we undertook the challenge of understanding how to successfully manage open pen or group gestation systems within our own live swine operations. As a result, we have increased the number of Tyson Foods-owned sows managed in open pen gestation systems. This was accomplished through the transition of several contract sow farms along with our company-owned sow farms to these systems. When including our independent supply partners, more than 20 percent of our total pork supply is derived from sows housed in open pen systems, which encompasses independent supply partners, contract sow farms and company- owned sow farms.
Current research within the industry has yet to conclusively prove which sow housing system best facilitates responsible production across all welfare and sustainability focus areas. For this reason, we continue to seek a balanced approach and respect our hog supply partners’ right to choose the system that best fits their operations and needs as well as focuses on animal welfare outcome measures. We remain dedicated to verifying responsible management and proper handling and care of all hogs within our supply chain. Our FarmCheck® Program serves as verification of our supply partners’ shared commitment to providing the best possible care to their hogs, regardless of the operation type or system.
We partner with suppliers that share our values—prioritizing animal health, welfare and food safety while ensuring animals are treated and managed responsibly.
Working closely with their veterinarians, growers establish herd health plans to address the unique challenges specific to each operation and bolster the overall health of the animals on site— utilizing guidance and best practices set forth within PQA Plus®. These plans encompass on-farm considerations such as biosecurity, herd history, facility management and training to help guide responsible decisions on antibiotic use.
Additionally, all Tyson Foods suppliers in the U.S. are expected to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. This includes FDA Guidance 209 & 213—which set forth limitations on the use of medically important antibiotics by disallowing use for production or growth promotion purposes and mandating veterinary oversight for all other applications.
To address the issue of responsible antibiotic use and combating antimicrobial resistance, we work with and rely upon the food industry, government, veterinary, public health and academic communities. For example, we allow research and collection of samples at our plants and transparently address questions related to our producers’ practices and use of antibiotics. We also provide funding to accelerate research into disease prevention and antibiotic alternatives on the farm. In addition, we are a founding members of the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public-private collaboration led by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. This group of global stakeholders collaborates and support critical research in this area.
Government regulations in the U.S outline the proper use of approved animal health products such as beta-agonists, with strict withdrawal times established by the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, USDA carefully monitors pork and routinely tests for residues, including those of beta-agonists—ensuring that pork produced and consumed is safe. To meet growing global demand for U.S. pork and increase export opportunities, the use of Ractopamine (beta-agonist) is no longer used across the supply chain that supports our U.S. pork harvest facilities.
For consumers who want pork from farm animals that have never been given antibiotics, hormones or beta-agonists for any purpose, we offer a line of all natural (no artificial ingredients, vegetarian diet, minimally processed) pork products through our Open Prairie® Natural Pork brand.
The proper handling and transport of hogs can reduce stress, prevent bruises and injury, and maintain animals’ meat quality. 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 hog receiving at the official harvest facility. At all pork processing plants, we use the NAMI Transport Audit Guidelines.
Anyone who enters one of our swine harvest facilities must undergo Tyson Foods animal welfare training before entering live animal areas. There are animal welfare specialists based in each location who receive PAACO red meat training and internal auditor certification. In addition, team members receive annual training based on NAMI guidelines, and are tested on their knowledge. Any violations of guidelines may be reported to a supervisor or anonymously through the Ethics Help Line.
In the U.S., our pork plants comply with NAMI recommended animal handling guidelines to support compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act, a federal law designed to ensure animals are humanely stunned and insensible to pain prior to harvest. This is verified across every facility by a PHV assigned by the USDA- FSIS. We have equipped most of our fresh pork harvest facilities with CO2 CAS stunning systems.