We treat animals with respect at our processing plants, just as we do when they are growing at our farms. At all our slaughter facilities, we use a robust, systematic approach that includes the following:
- An animal welfare and humane handling manual,
- A comprehensive training program, and
- An auditing system with internal verification and third-party audits.
Our plants all have developed quality programs following the standards set in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Process Verified Program (PVP), as described elsewhere on this site. Our PVP programs monitor aspects of traceability, Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus®) adherence on farms, and Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) status of drivers. All Murphy-Brown farms that send animals to our plants must participate in the program. Additionally, many external suppliers participate in and meet all the requirements of the PVP.
Temple Grandin and the American Meat Institute Look at Modern Hog Handling
These programs help ensure that the animals that come to our plants were raised where management systems address health, animal well-being, and proper use of antibiotics. All suppliers are certified to the PQA Plus guidelines and 98 percent of our supply has gone through on-farm site assessment portion of the Pork Board’s PQA Plus Program.
In addition to the PQA Plus requirements, our eight animal processing plants follow a quality management program based on the American Meat Institute’s (AMI) Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide (PDF). The Guidelines, which were revised in 2013, were first developed by Colorado State University’s Dr. Temple Grandin, who has provided Smithfield with her animal welfare expertise for many years.
Key elements of our animal welfare management program at the processing plants include the following:
- Animal Welfare Program: Each plant maintains a comprehensive, written animal welfare program modeled after the AMI Guidelines, which includes seven core criteria, as well as a section on transportation. Plant guidelines meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations and associated directives that address animal handling and welfare. Each plant also has an animal welfare committee, composed of employees from all aspects of the production process, that seeks ways to continuously improve our handling of animals.
- Expert Personnel: We have employees who are certified through the Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization (PAACO) engaged in the development and implementation of best practices to assure: ongoing program compliance, adherence to established standards, and continuous improvements in all aspects of the business that relate to animal handling. For several years, plants have been hosting annual PAACO training sessions, and several of our expert personnel serve as course instructors. Smithfield Foods is also actively involved with the AMI and National Pork Board Animal Welfare Committees, which establish standards, best practices, and continuing education programs for our industry.
- Training: PAACO-certified personnel develop and maintain training programs for all employees. Employees are trained when they join the company and receive regular group training updates. Employees understand that we have a zero-tolerance policy for animal abuse or mishandling. Any employee found to be in violation will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination. Willful neglect or abuse of animals by any employee is grounds for immediate dismissal, and offenders at our plants and farms may also be subject to criminal prosecution under applicable law.
- Auditing: Our programs are audited by both internal and external (third-party auditing) resources to verify, enhance, and update current company practices. These audits are scored according to the AMI guidelines. Third-party audits at company facilities are to be conducted by a recognized and qualified audit firm or the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Grading and Verification Division. Audit reports are shared with customers upon request.
- Supplier Expectations: All live-animal suppliers are required to be PQA Plus certified, and all truck drivers—including contract drivers—must be TQA certified. Producers and transporters of animals are subject to immediate termination if they fail to take adequate steps to uphold appropriate animal welfare practices.
- Regulatory Compliance: Animals that need to be housed at processing plants before slaughter are cared for in accordance with all regulatory requirements, under accepted standards for animal care and welfare. We employ timely use of humane methods to euthanize sick or injured animals that do not respond to appropriate treatments.
Hog Handling and Quality at Processing Plants
Our plants continue to make significant investments in animal handling facilities with new barns, improvements to existing barns, and improved unloading areas in order to ensure that our pigs are safe and comfortable.
We have also recently initiated the use of electronic data collection systems at our processing facilities to track animal audit information and report on plant-specific trends. This allows us to maintain our records electronically and to analyze data on a real-time and trending basis.
In addition, Smithfield has led the U.S. pork industry toward a procedure known as CO2 anesthetizing. All our facilities use the Butina® CO2 Backloader anesthetizer system. This allows the pigs to move slowly, in small groups, which is much less stressful for the animals and their handlers. CO2 anesthetizing is very effective and produces higher-quality meat than the older, single file, electrical stunning systems.