We’re committed to research and education in critical areas of animal welfare across our supply chain.
Research & Education
Research & Education
We partner with a variety of professionals, academic institutions and industry groups to advance animal agricultural research and best practices for animal welfare throughout the industry. In FY2019, we invested more than $1,367,500 in welfare research conducted at Tyson Foods or in collaboration with universities, agricultural organizations or companies. In addition to the external research that we support, we constantly seek out and pilot the latest innovations in animal welfare best practices within our own operations.
Tyson Foods Center for Sustainable Poultry Welfare Research
Within an 80-acre tract sit two unique farms—our proprietary Concept Farm and a new Broiler Welfare Research Farm. Our Welfare Research Farm is a testing ground for research on key aspects of broiler chicken welfare, such as lighting, enrichments and stocking density. This research is based on an approach that allows animal choice to guide our actions. Because chickens can’t tell us what types of housing they prefer, we create a variety of options within one environment and then observe animals’ behavior. We use a science-based approach to evaluate the impact of the different choices on measurable outcomes of animal welfare and health.
For example, we are conducting ongoing research on the optimum lighting conditions for chickens’ welfare. Findings suggest birds are best able to display their natural behaviors in housing with a gradient of lighting from bright to subdued, so they can feed in the bright area and rest where there’s less light. We can determine where birds are most content by measuring the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which are considered indicators of positive welfare. Broilers given a choice of lighting environments not only displayed better welfare, they had an improved feed conversion ratio, which means this type of lighting could reduce the greenhouse gas impact by reducing grain consumption.
The goal of our proprietary Poultry Concept Farm is to research better outcomes for birds, food safety and the environment. The Poultry Concept Farm acts as an integrated research hub that facilitates collaboration across functions that are studying animal welfare, environmental improvements, alternatives to antibiotics, lighting tests, operational efficiencies, workplace safety and more. As such, the Concept Farm allows us to look at our operations in a holistic way—connecting the dots between how one animal welfare practice may impact outcomes in another key area. This integrated approach enables all of our sustainability focus areas to work together to improve the sustainability of poultry production.
Incubation Technology Center
Our 75,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Incubation Technology Center in Springdale, Arkansas, is the primary supplier of chicks for our northwest Arkansas broiler and cornish hen operations. The center’s advanced incubation technology allows for reduced handling of animals through the use of robotic arms, which perform repetitive tasks that reduce the risk of strain and muscle fatigue for team members and also ensures consistent handling of the chicks. The Center is equipped with the latest in advanced technology, including high-tech internal environmental controls and ventilation to ensure that fresh air is continuously circulated throughout.
Environmental Enrichments for U.S. Swine Systems
The environment in which pigs are raised on farms is a critical contributing factor to their health and welfare, as well as productivity. As our awareness and knowledge of animal welfare expands, animal behavior and what drives positive welfare outcomes is an increasing area of focus that influences how rearing environments are managed. Of particular interest is the exploration of environmental enrichments and how they can enhance pig environments and stimulate natural behavior, while also having a positive impact on health and productivity. Nestlé and Tyson Foods have joined together with the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research in the USA to fund one of the first studies to test four different environmental enrichment devices that appear suitable for U.S. pig production systems. The ongoing work by scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Behavior Research Unit at Purdue University is focused on assessing the pigs’ welfare, including measures of behavior, health and growth. With the resulting information, pig farmers will have the potential to apply the environmental enrichment management strategies on farm in an effort to improve animal welfare outcomes.
More than ever, consumers are demanding to know more about the beef they purchase — where it comes from and how the cattle are raised. Tyson Fresh Meats demonstrated their commitment to 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 more than 3,600 independent producers across the country to sell us high-quality cattle.
Progressive Beef 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 Progressive Beef 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 have seen 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.