Animal Well-Being Audits and Team Member Training

FarmCheck® Program

In October 2012, we launched our FarmCheck®  program. Through this program, third-party auditors check for such things as animal access to food and water, as well as proper human-animal interaction and worker training at the livestock and poultry farms that supply us. Review our 2016 audit results.

On-Farm Third Party Audits Conducted*

On Farm Third Party Audits

*Combined results from Breeder/Pullet and Catch/Transport audits.

Our FarmCheck®  program scope is based on a statistical analysis of each protein supply chain. This analysis allows us to determine the number of farms that should be audited each year so that, over a three year period, we can be 99-percent confident that 95-percent or more of our supply chain complies with the standards of the program.

As a part of our FarmCheck®  program audits, we analyze several criteria on the farms we audit to gauge the physical, emotional and behavioral well-being of the animals. A few of the welfare outcome measures we look at are detailed below.

Broiler Chickens

When auditing broiler chicken operations, we check the foot pads of birds in a group of 30 that are between 14 and 28 days of age and note any lesions. In addition, we give a gait score to the producer for the previous seven days of production depicting the number of birds that are observed out of 100 that are unable to stand and walk.


While in 2016 we transitioned to utilizing the Common Swine Industry Audit platform, FarmCheck® has always focused on verifying key aspects to animal well-being: proper human-animal interaction, proper caretaker training, access to food and water, and the body condition of the animals. Through this initiative, we are able to verify that our suppliers are striving to provide the best possible care to their hogs, regardless of the operation type or system.


When auditing cattle feed yards, we reference the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines to ensure the cattle have adequate body space. We also recommend the use of BQA best practices for minimizing stress.


We are in the process of implementing FarmCheck®  audits at the turkey farms that supply our company. By the end of calendar year 2017, we will have completed the required number of 3rd party audits for this segment of our business. In addition, our service technicians regularly assess the on-farm treatment of turkeys. Below are a few examples of the criteria we audit for.

  • We conduct two audits while the birds are in the brooder. The first between day of placement and 14 days of age. The second audit is conducted between 14 and 28 days of age and includes a foot pad assessment.
  • We also conduct three audits while the birds are in the finishers. The first two are at eight and 12 weeks of age. The third, conducted during the last 14 days of production, includes a foot pad assessment of five birds from three random spots in the barn and a gait score assessment that includes 100 birds.
  • Another set of audits is done after transfer from the brooder to the finisher. This audit is to observe and score any injuries as a result of the transfer. Audit results are shared with the transportation crew for corrective action when necessary.
  • The final audit is completed at the plant by the load and haul manager at market. Fifty birds are observed (100 wings) and checked for bruised or broken wings. One audit is completed for each of the three loading crews monthly. The results are shared with the loading crews for corrective action when necessary.

CARE Program

In our chicken, beef, pork and turkey plants, we use a risk analysis program we call CARE to manage our humane handling policies and procedures and provide a method for us to continuously improve in these areas. CARE has three main components. We begin by documenting each step in the animal handling process from live animal receiving through harvest. We then evaluate each step to identify potential incidents that could result in excessive excitement, discomfort or accidental injury to the animal. If an opportunity for a potential risk or incident exists, we implement changes to mitigate or minimize those risks.

Animal Handling and Audits at our Plants

Best-practice system assessments and animal-handling audits are implemented in all of our chicken, beef, pork and turkey plants, as well as in our chicken hatcheries. This includes a combination of daily, weekly, or monthly handling and well-being audits conducted by plant management, members of our Food Safety and Quality Assurance teams, or third-party groups. All of our plants have animal well-being committees that conduct assessments and meet at least monthly to discuss animal well-being performance and opportunities for improvement.

We recently announced we are the first in the industry to employ animal well-being specialists across all of our beef, pork and poultry operations. We have trained and deployed nearly 60 dedicated full-time animal well-being specialists. This includes at least one specialist at every processing facility that handles live animals, who works 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 our company.

Animal Well-Being Training for our Team Members

Chicken Icon


  • Annual training for all team members working with live animals
  • Written tests for team members as well as those who transport the chickens to ensure their understanding of proper techniques
  • Signed agreement to comply with chicken well-being requirement
  • Only trained and authorized team members allowed to access live animal handling areas
Cow and Pig Icon

Cattle and Hog

  • Annual training for all team members working with live animals
  • Written tests to ensure their understanding of proper techniques
  • Signed agreement to comply with cattle and hog well-being requirement
  • Only trained and authorized team members allowed to access live animal handling areas
  • Livestock haulers required to read and acknowledge understanding of requirements and expectations in training materials from National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Board
Turkey Icon


  • All team members receive quarterly animal well-being training
  • Team members must acknowledge that they received training and assure their understanding of techniques
  • Contractors that may be on farms or have contact with turkeys must take the training

Our FarmCheck® Program’s Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel

Our FarmCheck® program’s Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel (PDF), help us determine research priorities and ways to improve the FarmCheck® program. The panel also provides guidance and direction on various projects throughout the year, such as the following:

  • Expertise for our antibiotic working groups
  • Blueprint reviews on facility design, with a focus on animal well-being
  • The help needed for us to make informed decisions about new animal well-being technologies
  • Any undercover video reviews needed and feedback on what we’re doing right and where we might be able to improve

Our Principles

FarmCheck Infographic

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Third-Party Audit Summaries

Summaries of our recent third-party animal well-being audits are available at the links below.