Tyson Foods has announced a huge initiative to improve welfare in its chicken-processing plants, raising the bar for competitors across North America.
In Canada, where the supply management system provides for regulation of all commercial-scale chicken farming, there could be pressure to match Tyson.
Also, in Ontario and Quebec where marketing boards ration chicken supplies for processors, they have clout to pressure processors to match Tyson.
The plan combines the latest technology with high-touch monitoring and training to improve the care of chickens. The company is also employing animal well-being specialists across all its beef, pork and poultry operations.
It is creating an extensive third-party remote video auditing (RVA) system, fielding what is believed to be the world’s largest team of animal well-being specialists and introducing a pilot project for controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) at two of its poultry facilities this year.
The RVA program will be operating in 33 poultry plants, including checks on live-bird handling.
Video feeds from cameras in Tyson Foods’ chicken plants are analyzed by third-party off-site auditors and data feedback is provided daily, weekly and monthly to plant management to monitor animal welfare practices.
Tyson Foods also is launching an RVA pilot project to assess on-farm catching of birds for transport to processing facilities.
Video will be audited and analyzed by a third party for adherence to humane treatment of animals, allowing immediate follow-up if any concerns are identified.
In Canada, a catching crew operating in Chilliwack, B.C., was caught on underground video captured by Mercy For Animals kicking and throwing birds, pulling off a leg and having the birds perform sexual acts. The crew chief and his staff of five have been fired and the company says it’s going to be using videos from now on.
In addition to video monitoring, Tyson Foods is employing animal well-being specialists across all its beef, pork and poultry operations.
The company has trained and deployed nearly 60 dedicated full-time animal well-being specialists, including at least one at every processing facility that handles live animals, to work collaboratively with the company’s Office of Animal Well-Being and its 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 the company.