Through a robust animal welfare auditing strategy, we’re committed to ensuring our expectations on humane care are met throughout our operations and supply chains.
Audits at Our Plants
2019 Third-Party Harvest Facility Audits1
1Plants undergo third-party audits annually, at a minimum.
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. We piloted unannounced audits in 2019 and will be rolling these out across our operations in 2020. In addition, all plants have animal welfare committees that conduct assessments and meet monthly to discuss animal welfare performance and areas for improvement.
For our wholly-owned harvest facilities globally, there is federal oversight for ante-mortem inspection. Summaries of our recent third-party U.S. animal welfare audits are publicly available for our chicken and turkey, beef and pork operations.
FarmCheck®, our U.S. industry-leading supply chain animal welfare program is founded on four guiding principles:
The Office of Animal Welfare staff oversees the implementation of the program, including engagement with the Advisory Panel, delivering on research objectives and execution of the audit program, through which third-party auditors check the livestock and poultry farms that supply us to ensure they meet a variety of animal welfare criteria, including animal condition, environment, training and proper human-animal interaction.
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. In 2019, our data showed us that we continue to see opportunities for improvement in 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 commitment is demonstrated through year-over-year improvements in overall supply chain scores. Since the inception of our FarmCheck® program on-farm verification audits in 2014, we have seen growth in all supply chains, with an overall improvement of 5% in Poultry, 7% in Swine, and 26% in Cattle.
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. We’re continually working to expand PAACO certifications across all species to further promote humane treatment of animals throughout the supply chain.
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. In 2019, the FarmCheck® program for broiler chickens received PAACO certification, which strengthens the audits’ credibility.
When auditing cattle feed yards and livestock markets, we reference the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines. All live cattle for Tyson Fresh Meats are purchased from BQA-certified direct cattle suppliers.
We currently use the Common Swine Industry Audit platform certified by PAACO, which is based upon industry best practices as defined by PQA. Our FarmCheck® program has always focused on verifying key aspects of animal welfare: proper human-animal interaction, proper caretaker training, access to food and water, and the body condition of the animals. Through this initiative, we’re able to verify that our suppliers are striving to provide the best possible care to their hogs, regardless of the operation type or system.
Remote Video Monitoring
In the U.S., we use the industry’s largest third-party remote video auditing (RVA) system to monitor bird handling in poultry plants. Arrowsight auditing technology and data analytics service deploys trained off-site auditors who conduct random audits, analyze video feed and provide results of their audits to our plant managers. All U.S. poultry plants are monitored through Arrowsight, and approximately one-third of our 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.
We use internal video monitoring systems within our beef facilities to verify animal handling and harvesting activities as part of our systematic animal welfare management plan. All beef facilities have implemented video monitoring and auditing of areas involving live animal handling. A designated monitor conducts standardized audits at a frequency established to meet program requirements.
The implementation of internal command centers within each pork facility allows us to support 24/7 monitoring and take action to address any deviation from our CARE program procedures and expectations while using our full-time camera monitors. With some plants having over a year of run time, we continue to fine-tune our processes, including dashboard analysis and trends and development of camera monitoring training specifications that facilitate improvement in management practices related to animal welfare.
Monitoring in International Operations
Tyson Foods’ international operations and supply chain partners maintain animal welfare standards consistent with those of our U.S. operations. We have spent the last year evaluating welfare programs and potential opportunities for improvement. Over the next year, we will move to provide more cohesive governance and oversight across our entire global supply chain.