By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net
Tyson Foods is launching a new program called FarmCheck that audits how animals are treated at the livestock and poultry farms that supply the company. Tyson Foods president and CEO Donnie Smith said the company is made up of ethical, responsible and compassionate people, and this effort lines up with Tyson’s core value to serve as a steward of the animals.
“We know more customers want assurance that their food has been produced responsibly and there are two ways to go about it,” Smith said. “One way is with on-farm audits, while also continuing to research ways to improve how farm animals are raised.”
Smith emphasized that his company knows that the farmers that supply Tyson are the best in the world and the audits will prove that. Should there be a problem with a producer within the system, Tyson will work directly with the farmer having issues and fix those right away.
Right now Tyson works with more than 12,000 independent livestock and poultry farmers, including 5,000 family poultry farmers, 3,000 family hog farmers and 4,000 family cattle farmers. Tyson has maintained an Office of Animal Well-Being for nearly 13 years and that’s where FarmCheck comes in.
“The FarmCheck program has essentially already started on a trial basis on some of the hog farms that supply us,” Smith said. “Auditors are checking things like the animal’s access to food and water, the proper human interaction with the animals on the farm and how the workers are the farm are being trained.”
FarmCheck will be expanded in the near future. By 2014, audits will include chicken and cattle farms. Smith said to his knowledge, this initiative goes well beyond what other major companies are doing as it focuses on the overall animal treatment of animals, not just one stage of livestock production or animal housing.
Other plans for Tyson Foods includes developing a new Farm Animal Well-Being Research Program to review current research and fund and promote additional research the company believes will lead to more animal raising methods improvements.
“We want to continue to identify and study the critical points, from the breeding of the animal all the way to harvesting, where the quality of life for the animals can be improved and then use those results to make a difference,” Smith said. “Ultimately we want people to know that at Tyson we care enough to check on the farm and we’re determined to help find better ways to care for and raise healthy animals.”
Both programs will be overseen by a new, outside Animal Well-Being Advisory Committee that will include experts in farm animal behavior, health, production and ethics. The committee is expected to begin in March of 2013.