by Lance Turner
Posted 10/12/2012 11:05 am
Updated 2 years ago
Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Friday that it is launching a program to audit the treatment of animals at the livestock and poultry farms that supply the company.
"Our company is made up of ethical, responsible and compassionate people, and we believe the family farmers who supply us share our values," CEO Donnie Smith said in a news release.
"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."
The meat processor (NYSE: TSN) said it 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.
Tyson Foods said 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 check on such things as animal access to food and water, human-animal interaction and worker training. The company said the program has been under development since spring.
Tyson Foods personnel have been conducting the audits, but the company plans to eventually involve independent, third-party auditors. It plans to expand the program to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014.
Tyson Foods also said it plans to develop a new "Farm Animal Well-Being Research Program" to review existing research and fund additional research the company thinks will lead to improvements in animal raising methods.
"We want to identify and study the critical points -- from breeding to harvesting -- where the quality of life for livestock and poultry can be improved, and use the results to make a difference," Smith said. "We know that content farm animals are healthier, and at Tyson Foods we want healthy animals."
The company said its FarmCheck and the research programs will be overseen by a new, external, "Animal Well-Being Advisory Committe" made up of people with expertise in farm animal behavior, health, production and ethics.
The committee is expected to begin work in March. Tyson Foods is also selecting a team of senior company leaders to oversee the FarmCheck program, the research program and the company's interaction with the advisory committee. It appointed Dean Danilson, vice president of food safety and quality control, as vice president of animal well-being programs.