Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal

On Friday, the nation’s leading producer of meat and poultry, Tyson Foods, Inc., announced plans to launch a program that audits the treatment of animals at their livestock and poultry supply farms.

Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, said in a statement, “Our company is made up of ethical, responsible and compassionate people, and we

Tyson Farms, Inc. currently works with over 12,000 independent livestock and poultry farmers. Photo Credit: Pandith News

believe the family farmers who supply us share our values. 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. Here’s what I want people to know: at Tyson, we care enough to check on the farm; and we’re determined to help find better ways to care for and raise healthy animals.”

“We believe the farmers who supply us are the best in the world, and I think the audits will verify this,” Smith continued. “But, if we find problems, we want them fixed right away. To our knowledge, no other major U.S. meat or poultry company offers this kind of service to its farmers, customers and consumers.”

Tyson currently works with over 12,000 independent livestock and poultry farmers, including 5,000 poultry farmers, 3,000 hog farmers, and 4,000 cattle farmers. The company is considered to be a long-time industry leader in animal welfare, however earlier this year, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released undercover video footage revealing cruel treatment of pigs at one Tyson Foods pork supplier, Wyoming Premium Farms

However, the company said the move was not in response to animal welfare activists’ pleas. Instead, the comapny’s chief executive, Donald Smith, said the company knew that consumers wanted assurances that their food was being produced responsibly.

As part of the Tyson FarmCheck Program—which has been under development since early spring of this year—the audits have already begun on some of the company’s independent pork suppliers to inspect things such as animal access to food and water, proper human-animal interaction, and worker training.

So far, audits have only been conducted by Tyson personnel. However, the company eventually plans to involve independent, third-party auditors as well. 

Tyson Farms also intends to expand the program to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014.

“These audits will give us a chance to correct any minor problems that are discovered and, if necessary, to stop doing business with any farms where animal treatment or conditions do not meet our standards,” Smith said.

Tyson Foods also plans to develop a new Farm Animal Well-Being Research Program, overseen by an advisory committee comprising of experts in farm animal behavior, health, production, and ethics including vice president of Animal Well-Being Programs (previously vice president of Food Safety & Quality Control) Dean Danilson. Beginning its work in March of next year, the committee plans to review existing research while funding additional research and promoting ways to improve the FarmCheck Program.

“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.”

Tyson Foods has joined alongside other food companies such as The Cheesecake Factory, McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s in the fight against farm animal cruelty.