Through a robust animal welfare auditing strategy, we ensure our expectations on humane care are met throughout our operations and supply chains.
Best-practice system assessments and animal-handling audits are implemented in all of our U.S. chicken, beef, pork and turkey plants, as well as in our chicken hatcheries. This includes a combination of daily, weekly and annual handling and welfare audits conducted by animal welfare specialists, OAW personnel, plant management, members of our Food Safety and Quality Assurance teams and third-party groups. Plants perform daily internal audits and take part in annual external third-party audits. In addition, all plants have animal welfare committees that conduct assessments and meet monthly to discuss animal welfare performance and areas for improvement.
Summaries of our recent third-party U.S. animal welfare audits are publicly available for our chicken and turkey, beef and pork harvest facilities.
The FarmCheck® audit 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. We analyze several criteria on audited farms to gauge animals’ physical welfare. Observations on farms that do not meet the criteria established in the audit tool, no matter how minor, are noted as deficiencies. If possible, deficiencies are corrected on site prior to the completion of the audit. If not, then a corrective action plan is created with input from the farmer and our animal welfare, live operations and procurement teams.
Each year, a comprehensive analysis is completed to understand the top areas of opportunity within each supply chain. Through this analysis, we have identified top opportunities for improvement and communicate these across the supply chains. These include facility maintenance and repair (such as gaps in walls and floors that might have the potential to lead to injury or welfare concerns); records and written standard operation procedures (such as 12 months of continuous daily observation documentation or a written protocol outlining how a site trains their employees); as well as internal assessments (based on requirements of management to perform and document at a prescribed frequency). While each individual site is able to use the results of their audit to identify ways in which they can enhance their on-farm processes and efforts, understanding where our challenges lie as an industry allows us to focus our efforts and communication to help raise the bar. This shared responsibility is demonstrated through year-over-year improvements in overall supply chain scores.
Our FarmCheck® program continues to grow in scope, criteria and impact. All FarmCheck® program auditors are required to be professionally trained or PAACO certified, which involves on-site training, along with hands-on learning and a comprehensive exam. By 2021, on-farm audit platforms across all supply chains will be using relevant PAACO certified tools to increase the integrity of 3rd party verification.
When auditing poultry operations, we focus on key welfare indicators such as foot pad lesions and gait scores. We also assess housing conditions, inspect for injuries or illness, and observe catching operations. Our FarmCheck®, broiler and turkey program guidelines and audit checklist have received PAACO certification.
When auditing cattle feed yards and livestock markets, we reference the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines. The PAACO-certified US Cattle Industry Audit tool is used for 3rd party verification of feed yards and the Tyson FarmCheck® program audit tool is used for livestock markets. All live cattle for Tyson Fresh Meats are purchased from BQA-trained direct cattle suppliers.
Audits across our pork supply chain utilize the Common Swine Industry Audit platform certified by PAACO, which is based upon industry best practices as defined by PQA Plus. To support this, all suppliers into Tyson Fresh Meats are required to be trained and certified in Pork Quality Assurance Plus.
All Tyson harvest facilities implement video monitoring and auditing of areas involving live animal handling. A designated monitor conducts standardized audits at a frequency established to meet program requirements. Approximately one-third of our poultry processing facilities utilize RVA for the catching process. Using RVA with catch crews has garnered positive results and allows us to work with and coach the crews on handling birds properly during the catch process.
Tyson Foods’ international operations and supply chain partners maintain animal welfare standards consistent with those of our U.S. operations. We continually evaluate welfare programs and potential opportunities for improvement in order to provide more cohesive governance and oversight across our entire global supply chain.
More than ever, consumers demand to know more about the beef they purchase – where it comes from and how the cattle are raised. Tyson Fresh Meats demonstrated their focus on supply chain transparency as the first beef processor to license the Progressive Beef™ program, a comprehensive quality management system designed for cattle feeding operations that sell to companies like Tyson Foods. We don’t own feedlots or ranches, but instead rely on independent producers across the country to sell us high-quality cattle.
The Progressive BeefTM program covers all aspects of day-to-day cattle care. Cattle feeding operators certified in the program follow best practices for animal welfare, food safety, responsible antibiotic use and environmental sustainability. All of these practices are verified twice per year by both USDA-approved auditors and a representative of Progressive Beef. Each audit is like a report card, and the metrics involved help ranchers improve their operations.
This progressive cattle management system heightens accountability and live animal transparency. We believe the Progressive Beef program is the gold standard for beef process control and food safety. It also takes into account animal care considerations, such as comfortable living conditions, nutritious food and clean water for them to thrive. Finally, it looks at responsible antibiotic use and sustainability benchmarks related to efficient use of natural resources and employee safety rates. Progressive Beef continues the Tyson Foods path laid by the FarmCheck® program and Beef Quality Assurance and integrates a quality management system that will further improve animal care, food safety and environmental sustainability practices through a transparent and verifiable system.
We see firsthand the benefits of bringing together verifiable best practices that are geared toward continuing improvement in long-term beef production. Licensing the program allows us to better collaborate with our supply chain and measure the progress we’re making in beef sustainability.
Together with Progressive Beef, we aspire to accelerate the entire beef industry toward embracing proven practices so that all consumers know the beef they buy is from cattle that were well cared for, in a safe and sustainable environment and verified through USDA-approved auditors and a representative from Progressive Beef. We met our goal in 2019 to buy two million program cattle in the first year and plan to grow this to 50 percent of the total cattle purchased, approximately 3.4 million head of cattle, by 2021, the third year of the program.
We already exceeded our 2021 goal in 2020 and purchased approximately 4.3 million program cattle during the second year. By 2021, the third year of the program, we plan to grow this to 75 percent of the total cattle purchased, approximately 4.7 million head of cattle.