Rollout of the Tyson Foods animal well-being program, called FarmCheck, continues this year with on-site audits of poultry farms.
The FarmCheck sourcing program is designed to ensure the proper treatment of farm animals raised for food on the more than 12,000 independent livestock and poultry farms that supply Tyson Foods.
The program includes the following elements:
- On-site audits of the livestock and poultry farms that supply the company
- An animal well-being advisory panel and farm animal research program
- The involvement of an internal management team
"Our company is made up of ethical, responsible and compassionate people, and we believe the family farmers who supply us share our values," said Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods. "We know more consumers want assurance their food is being produced responsibly, and we think two important ways to do that are by conducting on-farm audits while also continuing to research ways to improve how farm animals are raised."
"Here's what I want people to know: 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," he said.
Investment in on-farm audits, research and personnel
Speaking about FarmCheck at the National Chicken Council annual meeting in Washington D.C., Donnie King, senior group vice president, poultry and prepared foods, said, "Tyson is investing in the programs for the on-farm audits, research and management in order to find a better way.
"We care enough to check on the care that animals are receiving on the farms, and to learn through research. Where we find better ways of caring for animals, we will implement them," he said.
FarmCheck audit program
Referring to the farms audits, King said, "Tyson has a defined program for the care that animals are to receive on the farms. This program allows us to validate that those independent family farmers are doing what we think they are doing."
Independent, third-party auditors visit livestock and poultry farms that supply Tyson Foods to check on such things as animal access to food and water, as well as proper human-animal interaction and worker training. Development of the audits has involved experienced veterinarians and animal welfare experts and includes measures that build upon current voluntary farm industry programs.
FarmCheck program audits of the independent hog farms that supply the company started in 2012. The company plans to expand the program to include chicken and cattle farms by early 2014.
"We believe the farmers who supply us are the best in the world, and I think the audits will verify this," Smith said when the program was announced in 2012. "But, if we find problems, we want them fixed right away. To our knowledge, no other major U.S. meat or poultry company offers this kind of service to its farmers, customers and consumers."
Animal well-being advisory panel
Tyson Foods also established an independent, external panel of experts in animal behavior, health, production and ethics to advise the company and provide counsel on animal welfare, including research, emerging issues and best practices.
Animal well-being research program
The advisory panel will evaluate potential animal well-being research programs to find better ways to care for animals raised for food through scientific study. This may include funding research through universities or Tyson-initiated research programs.
In previous comments about the research program in 2012, Smith said, "We want to identify and study the critical points -- from breeding to harvesting -- where the quality of life for livestock and poultry can be improved, and use the results to make a difference. We know that content farm animals are healthier, and at Tyson Foods we want healthy animals."
Internal management structure
Tyson Foods selected a special team of leaders from key areas of the company to oversee the on-farm audit program, research efforts and the company's interaction with the external advisory panel. Dr. Dean Danilson, who has been vice president of Food Safety & Quality Control for Tyson Foods, is vice president of Animal Well-Being Programs.