Standards established by five industry organizations were part of the 2008 Poultry Welfare Auditor Training and Certification Course organized by the Professional Animal Auditors Organization (PAACO). The program, held in Raleigh, N.C., in September, was developed to train auditors to conduct welfare evaluations to comply with standards established by:
- the United Egg Processors (UEP),
- the National Broiler Council (NBC),
- the National Turkey Federation,
- the Food Marketing Institute, and
- the National Council of Chain Restaurants.
This program parallels the Red-Meat Welfare Auditors Training Program used in the beef and pork industries to satisfy the requirements of FMI and NCCR.
Production overviews presented
The course was team-taught by specialists in their respective fields. Overviews of broiler, turkey and egg production were presented to familiarize candidates with standard practices in poultry production. Although auditors are not responsible for assessing the validity of the standards, they must be able to verify stocking density and evaluate environmental parameters which are specified in the audit forms. The training program emphasized conduct of audits including the approach to subjective evaluation of criteria.
The 2008 program included training on the expanded UEP Animal Husbandry Guidelines which now incorporate floor-housed flocks.
Standard differences reviewed
Differences among audit standards were reviewed. An example of alternative approaches was illustrated by the fact that the UEP audit instrument assigns points for not carrying out beak trimming. In contrast, the NBC audit only allows the auditor to assign points for correct beak treatment when performed.
Attendees visited a turkey, broiler or egg production operation to observe protocols including biosecurity and the conduct of an audit. It was evident that a significant part of most of the audits involved review of production records and documentation relating to routine procedures and training.
Certification gaining acceptance
PAACO will extend activities to validating audit standards to ensure that they are practical and relate to improving welfare. Standardization among the various consumer and industry groups is required to ensure consistency and equivalency. Professional training of auditors to ensure third party audits is conducted with due regard to ethics and diligence, and will encourage acceptance of welfare certification in the food industry by customers and consumers.
Consumer demands for food products produced applying acceptable standards of welfare are now accepted by the industry.