Drawing on a Pioneer's Teachings to Track Animal Welfare in North America
November 12, 2020
Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, became one of the world's leading experts on humane livestock handling by looking at the world through animals' eyes. She crouched and crawled through pens and chutes to understand what animals experience at different points in the supply chain and used that information to elevate humane animal handling practices around the world.
Today, her recommendations for what she has called "calm, quiet animal handling" are the gold standard for humane animal management and inform our policies and practices at OSI. Our Global Animal Welfare Policy sets high expectations for ourselves and our suppliers and is enhanced by local guidelines that vary from region to region.
In North America, where Grandin's influence is most prominent, OSI's further processing facilities only source from primary processing plants that adhere to best practices the renowned professor helped establish through decades of intensive field research.
Encouragingly, these practices — which include everything from using non-slip surfaces wherever animals walk, to making sure those areas aren't too noisy — are now simply standard across the meat and poultry industries. "From farms through to each step of processing, it is well understood that everyone is dedicated to the wellness of animals," says Kiano Manavi, PhD., an OSI beef-pork vendor and quality specialist in North America.
OSI ensures these high standards are maintained in our North America supply chain by only sourcing from approved primary processing plants that meet key requirements. While OSI doesn't dictate how its vendors manage animal welfare at their facilities, we do insist that they employ people certified by leading animal welfare auditing groups, like the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, or PAACO. We also require vendors to adhere to industry standards maintained by leading trade groups, like the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), the National Chicken Council (NCC), Pork Checkoff, and National Turkey Federation. And truck drivers who transport animals from farms to OSI suppliers are encouraged to get certified through species-specific training programs, like the Transport and Beef Quality Assurance programs (TQA and BQA). "These are all established as the best practices by Dr. Temple Grandin's extensive research and work in the field," Manavi says.
CHECKS AND DOUBLE CHECKS AT PRIMARY PROCESSING PLANTS
To make sure these best practices are upheld, OSI requires the processing plants it sources from to undergo a series of animal welfare checks, including an annual 3rd-party audit and in-person visits from OSI specialists like Manavi.
Manavi describes visits to vendor facilities as extensive. The process includes everything from a records check to a critical walkthrough where he observes animal handling and treatment from the moment livestock arrive to the humane stunning they undergo ahead of slaughter.
"There are animal welfare and human handling requirements at each step," Manavi says. "When I observe a truck pulling into a dock, one thing we look for is the way animals are unloaded. We make sure the animals are not rushing out and that the truck driver is not causing them stress. The drivers and plant employees are not allowed to chit-chat during this process — they must be focused on the unloading of the animals."
Once unloaded, Manavi and his counterparts look for other signs of proper treatment in the pens where they wait, and then finally in the slaughter facility. For example, do the animals have enough room in the pens to move around and lay down? Do they have access to water? Are they protected from extreme weather? And crucially, are they calm and relaxed at all times?
"If we notice any violation, we require corrective action and a letter that explains how they will prevent the issue from occurring again. If we observe a more serious violation, we put the vendor on a 90-day suspension," Manavi explains. The suspension isn't lifted until the vendor is re-audited by a third-party agency that can confirm the problem has been resolved.
Back at the office, OSI specialists like Manavi have access to an internal database that shows how well each vendor is performing on everything from food safety to animal welfare, according to a variety of metrics. Manavi says he consults the data along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website every day to stay on top of vendor performance and the government’s latest animal welfare regulations.
CHECKS PART OF LARGER OSI STRATEGY
These regular checks — from quick looks at internal data to extensive field visits — vary from region to region in accordance with local laws and customer requirements. But they are part of our broader commitment to animal welfare, stretching all the way back to the farm. As a global company that sources from livestock producers and processors, OSI takes animal welfare very seriously. We have a longstanding dedication to upholding high standards of animal care throughout our supply chain, because it's the right thing to do.
We also understand that sustainability work is never done, which is why we challenge ourselves to meet ambitious new targets. By formally naming animal welfare as one of our six sustainability priorities in 2018, we have pushed ourselves to meet a series of goals including the development and rollout of Key Welfare Indicators (KWIs) to measure animal welfare from the farm to primary processing facilities.
These metrics are adding a new layer to the broader system of checks we rely on to make sure that we uphold the animal welfare standards experts like Dr. Temple Grandin painstakingly pioneered. These standards are the industry's guiding light and a source of great assurance to both us and our customers, who can be confident that we maintain the highest standards and dignity for animals in our supply chain, every step of the way.