Tyson Foods has launched a broad, new animal well-being initiative that combines the latest technology with high-touch monitoring and training to improve the care of chickens.
The company has implemented what it refers to as the U.S. meat industry’s most extensive third-party remote video auditing (RVA) system, is fielding what is believed to be the world’s largest team of animal well-being specialists and is introducing a pilot project for controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) at two of its poultry facilities this year.
“Ensuring the well-being of the animals in our care is a core part of our broader sustainability journey and these initiatives are the latest examples of our leadership in this important area,” said Justin Whitmore, chief sustainability officer for Tyson Foods. “We’re also piloting other potential innovations as we become the world’s most sustainable producer of protein.”
“Animal welfare is part science, part compassion, and it requires management commitment to learning, training and constant monitoring,” said Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a member of Tyson Foods’ Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel.
Remote video auditing system to cover 33 poultry plants
To help monitor live bird handling, the company has rolled out the industry’s largest third-party RVA program in the U.S., covering 33 poultry plants. The company is using Arrowsight, a leading provider of remote video auditing technology and data analytics services, which has extensive animal welfare monitoring experience. Video from cameras in Tyson Foods’ chicken plants is analyzed by trained off-site auditors and data feedback is provided daily, weekly and monthly to plant management to deliver excellence in animal welfare practices.
Tyson Foods also is launching an innovative RVA pilot project to assess on-farm catching of birds for transport to processing facilities. Video will be audited and analyzed by Arrowsight for adherence to humane treatment of animals, allowing immediate follow-up if any concerns are identified.
Animal well-being specialists’ expertise in use
In addition to video monitoring, Tyson Foods is also the first in the industry to employ animal well-being specialists across all its beef, pork and poultry operations. The company has trained and deployed nearly 60 dedicated full-time animal well-being specialists. This includes at least one at every processing facility that handles live animals, to work collaboratively with our Office of Animal Well-Being and our plants to ensure best-in-class training and practices. Half of the specialists are also involved in supporting animal well-being on the poultry farms that supply the company.
The specialists have experience in either processing plant or live chicken operations and will have continual training. They have participated in animal welfare webinars and a week-long summit. They are also taking a certification course through the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO).
Controlled atmosphere stunning pilot projects
Tyson Foods also will launch two pilot projects within the next year to test a process called controlled atmosphere stunning. Support of the use of gas as a more humane way to render the bird unconscious before processing has increased over the past several years among scientists, veterinarians and animal welfare advocates, since it eliminates the handling of conscious birds. The company will evaluate the results of the pilot program to determine if CAS is a reasonable alternative to the existing method before it makes decisions about deploying it at other facilities.
Tyson Foods is also piloting research into chicken house lighting and enrichments for the birds (e.g. perches). In addition, the company continues to work with its poultry breeding suppliers on the important relationship between breeding and bird health. It has also conducted work on enhanced poultry nutrition and ventilation.
Live video session
Tyson Foods will host a Facebook Live video session from a chicken farm on Thursday, June 22, at 10 a.m. CT on its corporate Facebook page. It will include a Tyson Foods animal well-being specialist, Tyson Foods veterinarian and a poultry farmer and will give viewers an opportunity to see first-hand how chickens are raised.