Tyson Foods rolls out high-tech, high touch animal welfare programme

07-07-2017 | | |
Photo: Ronald Hissink
Photo: Ronald Hissink

Leading United States poultry producer Tyson Foods has launched a broad range of animal welfare measures to improve the care of its birds.

The measures include:

• The meat industry’s most extensive third-party remote video auditing system covering 33 plants;

• The world’s largest team of animal welfare specialists (60) with one at every processing facility that handles live animals;

• The introduction of controlled atmosphere stunning at two of its facilities later this year;

• A pilot of research into chicken house lighting and enrichments for birds.

Justin Whitmore, Tyson Foods chief sustainability officer, said the company was working to become the most sustainable producer of protein.

“Ensuring the well-being of the animals in our care is a core part of our broader sustainability journey and these initiatives are the latest examples of our leadership in this important area.”

Dr Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado University and a member of Tyson Foods’ Animal Wellbeing Advisory Panel, welcomed the additional training provided by the company: “Animal welfare is part science, part compassion and it requires management, commitment to learning, training and constant management.”

Tyson Foods has been under a barrage of criticism for its lack of adoption of meaningful animal welfare standards in recent months and alleged cruelty to birds. Animal welfare charity Mercy for Animals launched a hard-hitting petition urging Tyson’s chief executive Tom Hayes to ensure the company “stopped torturing animals and adopt urgently needed chicken welfare standards”.

Mr Whitmore said transparency had to increase across the industry.

US firms are increasingly adopting controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) as a more humane way of rendering chickens unconscious before processing, eliminating live bird handling.

While common in Europe, the practice has only relatively recently been taken up by US firms. One of Tyson’s competitors, Perdue Farms, announced a year ago that it would use CAS for its chicken slaughter, in part due to growing consumer demand for better practices in abattoirs.

The Humane Society of the United States has said that major retailers are increasingly giving preference to suppliers that employ CAS.

Tony Mcdougal Freelance Journalist