Humane Handling

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

Physical alteration of animals


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 injury. 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.


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.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association

National Pork Board

Our chickens and turkeys are not genetically modified or cloned. 

Additionally, we do not knowingly buy any genetically-engineered livestock for our beef and pork processing operations.

baby chicks

Policies & procedures

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.

  • Annual training for all team members working with live animals
  • 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
Cattle and Hogs
  • Annual training for all team members working with live animals
  • 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
  • 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
People holding a piglet

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. For example:

  • 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

Additionally, all of our plants have animal welfare committees that conduct assessments and meet at least monthly to discuss animal welfare performance and opportunities for improvement.


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

•    Chicken Third-Party Audit Summary
•    Beef Third-Party Audit Summary
•    Pork Third-Party Audit Summary
•    Newbern Third-Party AWB Audit Summary
•    Turkey Third-Party Audit Summary

Chicken being handled


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 which, similar to the Humane Slaughter Act, are designed to ensure the humane harvest of poultry by advocating the need for animals 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.

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; Waterloo, Iowa; and Perry, Iowa pork plants with these systems. We are currently finalizing the install of a CO2 stunning system at another pork plant that we anticipate being operational the summer of 2018. Over the next several years, we plan to transition all of our pork plants to CO2 stunning.

As a company that employs over 122,000 team members and works with over 9,300 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 welfare. In 2017, there was one FarmCheck® audit report and one public report of 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.

These efforts were recognized by Meat & Poultry magazine who published an article about our work with Arrowsight to develop a mobile RVA system to monitor the catching of birds on the farm for delivery to our plants. The article, Advancement in Auditing, appears in the magazine’s July 2018 issue. It explains how we use the video to monitor bird handling and coach members of the catch crew on improvements when necessary.

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.

In fiscal 2018, we surveyed a group of our suppliers that make up more than 80-percent of the money we spent with third parties on to purchase chicken, beef, pork and dairy. Based on a 72-percent response rate, we learned the chicken, beef, and pork meat we buy is from animals subject to pre-slaughter stunning.