Murphy-Brown created its own animal care management system more than a decade ago. Developed in consultation with two of the world’s foremost experts in animal behavior and handling, this system continues to guide our operations today.
Several years ago, we volunteered to provide input and recommendations to help the National Pork Board enhance its animal care management program for all pork producers. That program, which includes many of the tenets of our own Murphy-Brown guidelines, became the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance (PQA Plus®) program. A pork producer’s staff becomes PQA Plus certified after attending training sessions on good production practices (which includes topics such as responsible animal handling, disease prevention, insecurity, responsible antibiotic use, and appropriate feeding). Farms entered into the program undergo on-farm site assessments and are subject to random third-party audits.
Although Murphy-Brown and its subsidiaries remain aligned with PQA Plus, we have been working hard over the past year to further enhance our program. Several noted experts have reviewed our standard operating procedures with an eye toward helping us to improve them. These individuals include internationally recognized livestock handling expert Jennifer Woods; Dr. Anna Johnson, associate professor of animal behavior and well-being research at Iowa State University; and Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, associate professor of stress physiology and animal well-being at the University of Illinois.
Learn more about how we care for our animals through our video series, Taking the Mystery Out of Pork Production. The seven-part series, available at Smithfield Videos, was designed to open our company’s doors and educate consumers and others about pork production.
Murphy-Brown is a member of several important national associations that work on behalf of the pork industry. In addition to the individuals listed below, several more of our employees serve on committees and subcommittees of industry groups.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) engages in public policy issues on behalf of the industry, with a mission of protecting the livelihoods of America’s 67,000 pork producers. One of Murphy-Brown’s contract growers, R.C. Hunt, served as president of the NPPC from early 2012 through early 2013. Hunt is the president and co-owner of Andrews Hunt Farms in Wilson, North Carolina. Murphy-Brown employee Ray Summerlin of Rose Hill, North Carolina, sits on the board of directors.
The National Pork Board (NPB) is a quasi-governmental body of the United States created by Congress in 1985. The board is responsible for performing industry-related research and promoting pork as a food product. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture appoints 15 pork producers or importers to serve on the board. Activities are funded by the mandatory National Pork Checkoff (see below), which requires producers to pay into a marketing fund based on animal sales. Conley Nelson, general manager of the Murphy-Brown Midwest operations, served as president of the National Pork Board in 2012.
The Pork Checkoff funds research, promotion, and research projects. Funds come from pork producers, who invest 40 cents for each $100 value of hogs sold.
Can high technology make for healthier pigs? At six hog barns, we have installed an integrated management computer program that can detect abnormal or out-of-range events and allow us to make changes and improvements.
For example, the system can sense if the hogs’ water consumption has dropped, which could give us an early warning of a potential illness that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to spot visually. The system also notes when temperatures or humidity rise or fall, allowing our farm staff to make immediate adjustments that would make the animals more comfortable. The system generates real-time email alerts whenever it detects something out of the ordinary.
Some of the farms in our western operations have used other high-tech management programs that monitor barn conditions. Some of these systems were in place as early as the 1990s.
A second high-tech solution we’re exploring uses near-infrared reflectance technology to analyze feed samples for important factors such as protein content and grind size, which are key for a hog’s digestion. The system that we developed in cooperation with a high-tech firm is currently being pilot tested at our largest feed mill in North Carolina, which we affectionately have nicknamed “The Chief.”
Murphy-Brown’s eastern U.S. feed mills generate between 60,000 and 80,000 tons of feed each week. We aim to produce the best-quality feed for our animals—food that they can digest most efficiently and effectively for healthy weight gain. Efficient digestion also saves our company money because the hogs need to eat less food to gain weight and strength. Read how greater efficiency in pork production is helping to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
Murphy-Brown’s U.S. Feed Operations have achieved certification for feed manufacturing including such elements as feed formulation, grain and ingredient procurement, feed manufacturing, and feed delivery operations. Standardization of our practices and the commitment to measure our performance to those standards are important to producing quality feed for our animals and providing a great place to work for our employees. Our feed operations are third-party certified to either the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for food safety ISO 22000:2005 or the American Feed Industry Association’s (AFIA) Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program.