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Humane Handling and Physical Alterations

We are committed to producing food responsibly by using established best practices for animal handling and harvest.

Our chicken and turkey plants comply with the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Poultry Products Inspection Act, the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines (PDF) and the National Turkey Federation Animal Care Best Management Practices (PDF) which, similar to the Humane Slaughter Act, are designed to decrease suffering of poultry during harvest by advocating the need for poultry to be rendered insensible to pain prior to harvest.

In our turkey plant, we use controlled atmosphere stunning to render the animals insensible to pain prior to harvest. We are currently researching and evaluating opportunities to use controlled atmosphere stunning in our chicken operations as well.

Our beef and pork plants comply with the Humane Slaughter Act, a United States federal law designed to decrease suffering of livestock during harvest by ensuring animals are humanely stunned and insensible to pain prior to harvest.

In fiscal 2015, we installed controlled atmosphere stunning in one of our pork facilities and are assessing implementation in additional facilities in the future.

As a company that employs over 113,000 Team Members and works with over 9,700 farmers who raise the animals we process for our food products, we are constantly working to communicate our expectations throughout our workforce and supply chain on important issues such as animal well-being. In fiscal year 2015 there were public reports of four incidents where farmers or team members violated our expectations for the proper care and handling of animals under our Core Values, our Supplier Code of Conduct, or the animal well-being training they received. We take the mistreatment of animals seriously and take corrective actions, which may include termination of employment or contracts.

We believe proper animal handling is an important moral and ethical obligation. Everyone who works with live animals in our plants is trained in humane animal handling practices and instructed to report anything they believe is inappropriate. Team members are encouraged to report unacceptable behavior to their supervisor as well as our compliance and ethics hotline. We are in the process of installing cameras and other technology that will allow third-party remote video auditing of live bird handling at our U.S. chicken processing plants. We will also be offering additional annual training for the farmers that raise broiler chickens for us to ensure proper animal well-being handling practices are understood and followed.

Physical Alteration of Animals

Chickens and Turkeys

Physical alterations are not performed on our broiler chickens. For poultry kept on farms for longer periods, such as breeding chickens and turkeys, certain procedures may be necessary for the long-term welfare of the flock. We do beak trim our turkey poults with microwave technology and also de-snood them to reduce the risk of cannibalism. We do not de-toe our turkeys.

The goal of these procedures is to reduce injuries among birds and to promote health and well-being of the flocks. These procedures are closely monitored and performed by trained personnel using specialized equipment in the hatchery on day-old poultry. Procedures for chicken breeding flocks may include beak treatment and toe-nail trimming, while procedures for turkey flocks may include beak treatment and snood removal.

Cattle and Hogs

We encourage the use of National Cattlemen's Beef Association and National Pork Board good production guidelines for age and weight when practices such as dehorning, tail docking, and other alterations are performed. Verification that these guidelines are followed is completed through our FarmCheck® program audits on the farm.

Our Plants are Audited and Inspected

To ensure these laws and guidelines are met and that humane methods of handling and harvest are followed, our plants are audited and inspected.

  • Plants perform daily internal audits
  • United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) assign a Public Health Veterinarian (PHV) to every FSIS-inspected harvest facility for livestock and poultry
  • Annual, external third-party audits are conducted