Using Technology to Improve Humane Handling and Animal Welfare
July 30, 2019
Animal welfare and good agricultural practices are pre-competitive issues. That is why we participate in programs along with other industry and supply chain members to identify and improve in areas, to continue to meet ethical standards and responsibilities. Through these programs, OSI also supports commitment-led supply chain enrichment programs on behalf of our customers. Our Quality Assurance Team is critical in benchmarking supplier performance with best practices and ensuring consistent quality through regular audits and supplier feedback loops.
While these efforts have proven successful, we have taken our animal welfare initiatives to the next level over the past few years through organizational work and by instituting third party monitoring at our plants in Europe.
As a leading global protein supplier with a major focus on sustainability, OSI has always made it a priority to ensure animals are treated ethically and humanely throughout their lives. To learn from others and provide continuous improvement in this and other animal welfare areas, it is important that we create a culture within our company that champions these ideas and best practices.
THE CHALLENGES OF TRACKING PROGRESS IN ANIMAL WELFARE
One of the biggest challenges when tracking progress and improvements in animal welfare (or any other sustainability initiative, for that matter) is setting a benchmark with a basic understanding of what we are measuring. For instance, animal welfare means different things to different people and different parts of the supply chain. Within those definitions are varying ideas for those practices. Fortunately, Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) began formulating these metrics a few decades ago.
In 1991, the Meat Institute published Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines for Meat Packers as the first set of voluntary animal welfare guidelines for operations in the meat industry. Then, in 1997, Dr. Grandin developed a new document called Good Management Practices (GMPs) for Animal Handling and Stunning. This document highlights objective criteria that could be measured and tracked so the well-being of livestock in meat packing plants could be analyzed. Due to many of these guidelines, the sharing of best practices, and the efforts made by the industry, data collected by Dr. Grandin for the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that animal handling in the meat industry has improved dramatically during the last two decades. The data can be found at http://www.grandin.com.
BENCHMARKING AND TRACKING ANIMAL WELFARE THROUGH THIRD PARTY MONITORING
One of the most important developments made by Dr. Grandin and NAMI was setting objective criteria to measure success and challenges. In line with that spirit and the recommendations made by those guidelines to have objective monitors of animal welfare practices and criteria, OSI took its animal welfare practices and analytics to the next level.
OSI began working with an independent, third party monitoring service, in 2005. This service offers remote video auditing (RVA) that can cover the entire sequence of farming operations, from live animal handling to further processing, and the entire breadth of criteria from animal welfare to food safety and margins. This is a great solution for providing quality assurance within our own operations and on behalf of our supply chains.
The importance of the extra security created by external oversight cannot be emphasized enough. We have recognized that some of the main challenges we have as a business and as an industry can be solved with additional transparency, and believe that third party monitoring will help us make significant progress for our business, the industry, the animals and our customers.
Rather than solely relying on closed-circuit television (CCTV) and employee observations, we are able to get objective, educated feedback from the third party monitoring service on any challenges that may arise in our facilities. We can then work to employ the necessary adjustments or improvements to ensure we are meeting our high ethical standards in animal welfare.
With this service, we can also benchmark facilities and track both compliance and performance progress as a main part of OSI’s animal welfare mission. Through the eyes of this external auditor, we will be able to have a clear understanding of what success actually looks like, measure against the criteria that is widely accepted by experts in our industry and the field of animal welfare, and consistently make adjustments and improvements to better our practices.
Last, but certainly not least, is the improved ability for OSI to share best practices with partners and other members of the industry to improve animal welfare practices on a monumental scale. We can use our experiences to share information about gaps in industry processes with partner and industry organizations, utilizing a collaborative approach to problem solving. We can also share this with the various animal welfare organizations we support.
SUPPORTING ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS FOR A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH TO IMPROVEMENT
As part of our commitment to animal welfare and information sharing, OSI is committed to long-term partnerships with a variety of organizations around the world. We believe the more we share and come together as an industry, the stronger we will become in advancing sustainability initiatives and bettering the world and communities in which we operate.
OSI supports these groups through sponsorships, leadership positions, collaborative activities and memberships. We make efforts to contribute our resources as a global leader in the protein industry, so that we may all learn from each other and work together to find solutions.
PAACO Auditor Certification Program Sponsorship
The mission of the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, or PAACO, is to promote the humane treatment of animals through education and certification of animal auditors, as well as the review and certification of animal audit instruments, assessments and programs. OSI is a sustaining partner to PAACO, supporting multiple auditor training programs that the organization holds on an annual basis.
As part of the PAACO sponsorship, OSI sends one representative to a sponsored training on our behalf. The OSI Quality Assurance team can choose an internal candidate for this training, or, at times, will pass on the registration for this paid training to an employee from one of our raw material vendors who can benefit from the additional education.
NAMI Foundation Animal Care and Handling Conference Sponsorship
OSI is an ongoing sponsor to the annual North American Meat Institute Foundation’s Animal Care and Handling Conference. This is the leading animal welfare education opportunity for companies in the meat industry. The two-day conference includes expert speakers, industry panel discussions, USDA updates, and three focused educational tracks: Management and Policy; Pork and Beef; and Poultry.
Professional Dairy Producers® (PDPW) Membership
As the dairy industry is often a source for the beef industry, OSI felt compelled to work together with the dairy industry to help improve animal welfare. OSI is a Corporate Member of the Professional Dairy Producers (PDPW).
Formed in 1992 in the state of Wisconsin, PDPW has grown into a network of 1,600 members from 18 states across the country. The PDPW members represent every type and size of dairy operation and are joined by other businesses associated with the industry. As the largest producer-led organization in the nation, thousands of dairy producers rely on PDPW for continuing education and news that affects them.
OSI chose for the first time to become a member of a dairy producer organization in an effort to connect and interact on animal care, handling and other sustainability challenges that dairy producers face. Through a greater understanding of actions all the way from “farm to fork,” all segments of the food production industry can work together towards continuous improvement.
Animal Agriculture Alliance
The Animal Agriculture Alliance is an organization that helps bridge the communication between the farm and the consumer. The Alliance members connect food industry stakeholders to provide them with responses to upcoming issues, engage with food chain members to further educate them on modern animal agriculture, and protect them by exposing those who threaten food security.
OSI became a member of the Animal Agriculture Alliance in 2018. The Alliance team has experience with a variety of pertinent topics including animal rights activist tactics, farm and plant security, crisis management, consumer engagement and advocating for agriculture on social media. OSI appreciates the Alliance team’s efforts and passion for agriculture, food security and animal welfare.
NEVER BEING SATISFIED
While it is extremely important for our industry to celebrate the progress we have made over the last few decades, and especially the last couple of years, it is perhaps even more important that we never get complacent or lose sight of our mission of continuous improvement in animal welfare. This is why we believe it is important to work together as an industry and to hold ourselves to the highest standards within it.
Through the partnerships we have formed with the various animal welfare organizations around the world to improve information and best practice sharing within our own company, we believe we are positioning ourselves to make progress today and well into the future. And with third party accountability now being a major part of our auditing, all eyes are on us, and we are ready for it.