Colorado State University’s Animal Science department is planning to construct a new, updated building on campus, and faculty member Temple Grandin, PhD., suggested they make the walls out of glass. They’ll actually use traditional brick and mortar, but Grandin’s suggestion is consistent with her strong advocacy for transparency in livestock production.
Grandin and other scientists including Dee Griffin, DVM, and meat scientist John Scanga, PhD., brought that transparency to a conference last week hosted by Colorado State University and the Colorado Beef Council. The conference, titled “Beef + Transparency = Trust,” targeted influencers such as consumer media, food writers, nutritionists and food-business executives, intending to provide objective, honest and factual information about modern beef-production practices and the reasons behind them.
Temple Grandin, known worldwide for her work in animal behavior and handling, told the group that if the livestock industry needs to show the public what they do. And if there is something we are unwilling to show, we probably shouldn’t be doing it.
One challenge though, is the context in which members of the public see things. To someone with no background or experience in agriculture, processes or activities done for good reasons and considered acceptable within the industry could seem distressing. For that reason, when she conducts tours of slaughter plants, Grandin leads groups through a progression of events, explaining along the way. She begins by showing the unloading process, noting that cattle are unloaded from trailers calmly and rested in un-crowded pens for several hours to avoid stress. She explains how the animals are brought into the facility calmly, using curved alleys with high sides designed to keep them calm. The actual slaughter process is quick and humane.
Grandin showed the group a video tour she recorded with the American Meat Institute as part of the “Glass Walls Project,” which shows the beef-slaughter process in detail, while explaining the reasons behind each step.
Grandin explained that most plants use video monitoring to continuously audit animal welfare practices, and that meat customers such as McDonald’s have driven a trend toward regular third-party audits of plants and continuous improvement. When problems occur, they need to be fixed. Grandin says about 10 percent of people are simply not suited to work with livestock, and farmers, ranchers and packers need to identify those people.