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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 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 (CAS) to render the animals insensible to pain prior to harvest. We announced in June 2017 that we will launch two pilot projects within the next year to test CAS in our poultry plants. 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, since it eliminates the handling of conscious birds. We will evaluate the results of the pilot program to determine if CAS is a reasonable alternative to the existing method before we make decisions about deploying it at other facilities.

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.

After extensive research, we recognized the benefits of CO2 stunning systems in pork processing and are diligently working to implement these systems in our fresh pork plants. We’ve already equipped our Logansport, Indiana, and Waterloo, Iowa, pork plants with these systems. Over the next several years, we plan to transition all of our pork plants to CO2 stunning.

As a company that employs over 114,000 Team Members and works with over 9,400 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 2016, there were public reports of three incidents where farmers or team members did not meet our expectations for the proper care and humane handling of animals. 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.

To help monitor live bird handling, we have also rolled out the industry’s largest third-party remote video auditing (RVA) program in the U.S., covering 33 poultry plants. We are 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 our 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. We are also launching an innovative RVA pilot project to assess on-farm catching of birds for transport to processing facilities.

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.

All of our facilities in the United States of America, India, and China pre-slaughter stun chickens, cattle, hogs, and turkeys before they are harvested.

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