Tyson Foods, Inc. on Friday, Oct. 12 announced the launch of a program to audit the treatment of animals at the livestock and poultry farms that supply the company.
"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," says Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods
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. The company employs more than a dozen veterinarians and maintains an Office of Animal Well-being.
Tyson has started trial pilot programs at some hog farms; plans to expand to poultry and beef facilities.
Smith says he wants people to know that Tyson cares enough to check farms, "and we're determined to help find better ways to care for and raise healthy animals," he says.
"We believe the farmers who supply us are the best in the world, and I think the audits will verify this. 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," Smith adds.
The audits - called the Tyson FarmCheck Program - have already begun on a trial basis on some of the 3,000 independent hog farms that supply the company. Auditors are visiting the farms to check on such things as animal access to food and water, as well as proper human-animal interaction and worker training.
The FarmCheck program has been under development since early spring 2012. Although Tyson personnel have been conducting the audits so far, the company plans to ultimately involve independent, third party auditors. It also intends to expand the program to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014. The audits are being developed by veterinarians and animal welfare specialists and are expected to include measures that build upon current voluntary farm industry programs.