The 20th Anniversary Edition of the North American Meat Institute’s Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide was released on June 16 for download on the Institute’s newly updated and redesigned animal welfare site AnimalHandling.org. The guidelines were authored by Colorado State University Professor of Animal Behavior Temple Grandin, Ph.D., working with the Institute’s Animal Welfare Committee.
The Institute’s audit was originally developed by Grandin in 1997 and its adoption by meat companies helped transform how livestock are handled and processed in meat plants. Grandin premised the concept of an animal welfare audit on the idea that “You manage what you measure.”
By measuring objective criteria like animal vocalizations, falls, the use of prods to move animals, effective stunning and other objective criteria, she argued that plants could evaluate their animal handling practices, identify problems and drive continuous improvement. The Institute agreed with her view and invited her to write it.
Since that time, data collected by Dr. Grandin show that major animal handling and stunning improvements have been made over time in plants thanks to the widespread use of the guidelines and the audit.
“It’s been wonderful to watch meat plants embrace the audit throughout the last two decades and to see the measurable improvements that have occurred in animal care and handling,” Dr. Grandin said. “Together with our annual animal handling conference, the audit has helped elevate the importance of good animal handling and professionalized the role of those who handle livestock during transport and at the plants.”
Major changes in this year’s edition include the following: The stunning section has been updated to reflect the findings of new French research on insensibility by stunning method.
- When captive bolt stunners are used, the acceptable stunning accuracy score has been increased from 95 to 96 percent.
- Plants that use CO2 stunning systems that have a shorter exposure time, as well as plants that use head-only reversible electric stunning, should now consider auditing insensibility both prior to bleed and on the rail.
- The guidelines now discuss the proper use of vibrating prods. They also note that vibrating prods can be used with pigs.
- The document emphasizes that ambulatory livestock should never be moved over non-ambulatory livestock.
- The guidelines make clear that unless there is an emergency situation, trailers should not be warehoused at off-site locations to prevent backups at plants.
- The transportation audit also now probes whether the plant had documented training for its employees in properly receiving animals.
- The acceptable level of prodding at unload was decreased on the transportation audit from 25 percent or less to 10 percent or less.
Redesigned animal welfare web site
The revamped AnimalHandling.org web site offers resources for media, consumers and members of the meat industry. Among the Institute’s most popular resources is its Glass Walls series of videos in which Dr. Grandin offers unscripted tours of cattle, pig, sheep and turkey plants. The videos have been viewed more than two million times. The site also explains various labeling claims.
Members of the industry will benefit from a convenient listing of USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service regulations, directives and notices; a special section featuring resources to help in developing a systematic approach to animal welfare; a listing of audit firms and consultants; and information about how to access the Institute’s peer-to-peer animal welfare assistance program.