USA, Springdale, Ark. As part of its focus on sustainable food production, Tyson Foods has launched a broad, new animal well-being initiative that combines the latest technology with high-touch monitoring and training to improve the care of chickens.
The company has implemented the US meat industry’s most extensive third-party remote video auditing (RVA) system covering 33 poultry plants, is fielding what is believed to be the world’s largest team of animal well-being specialists and is introducing a pilot project for controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) at two of its poultry facilities this year.
To help monitor live bird handling, the company is using Arrowsight, a leading provider of remote video auditing technology and data analytics services, which has extensive animal welfare monitoring experience. Video from cameras in Tyson Foods’ chicken plants is analyzed by trained off-site auditors and data feedback is provided daily, weekly and monthly to plant management to deliver excellence in animal welfare practices.
Tyson Foods also is launching an innovative RVA pilot project to assess on-farm catching of birds for transport to processing facilities. Video will be audited and analyzed by Arrowsight for adherence to humane treatment of animals, allowing immediate follow-up if any concerns are identified.
In addition to video monitoring, Tyson Foods is also the first in the industry to employ animal well-being specialists across all its beef, pork and poultry operations. The company has trained and deployed nearly 60 dedicated full-time animal well-being specialists. This includes at least one at every processing facility that handles live animals, to work collaboratively with the company’s Office of Animal Well-Being and plants to ensure best-in-class training and practices. Half of the specialists are also involved in supporting animal well-being on the poultry farms that supply the company.
The specialists have experience in either processing plant or live chicken operations and will have continual training. They have participated in animal welfare webinars and a week-long summit. They are also taking a certification course through the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO).
The company also will launch two pilot projects within the next year to test a process called controlled atmosphere stunning. Support of the use of gas as a more humane way to render the bird unconscious before processing has increased over the past several years among scientists, veterinarians and animal welfare advocates, since it eliminates the handling of conscious birds. The company will evaluate the results of the pilot program to determine if CAS is a reasonable alternative to the existing method before it makes decisions about deploying it at other facilities.
Tyson Foods is also piloting research into chicken house lighting and enrichments for the birds (e.g. perches). In addition, the company continues to work with its poultry breeding suppliers on the important relationship between breeding and bird health. It has also conducted work on enhanced poultry nutrition and ventilation.