Cargill Pork announced this week it has achieved eight priority animal-welfare assurance objectives. Advancements are in the production, handling, transportation and harvest of hogs. 

On Oct. 1, 2008, it was the first in the industry to institute a policy that it will purchase hogs only from farms that have been certified under the National Pork Producers Council’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, the company said. The program establishes strict certification criteria for many aspects of hog production, including animal-welfare standards.

In addition, in December 2008 Cargill Pork’s live production business completed PQA+ certification site assessments for all of the 450 farms where it has production contracts. Cargill also made the commitment more than two years ago to widely adopt group housing for gestating sows. “We decided to take a leadership role in sow housing because we think it’s the right thing to do to support our customers and our brand,” says Cargill Pork President Dirk Jones.

The company reported it has achieved its goal of having 50 percent of contract farms using group sow housing rather than traditional gestation stalls for pregnant sows.

“Achieving this objective distinguishes us as a leader among pork companies,” says Jeff Worstell, Cargill Pork vice president for live production and procurement. “As we contract with new grower operations, they too will need to meet Cargill’s sow-housing standards.”

Cargill also adopted the pork industry’s Transportation Quality Assurance policy, ensuring that only truck drivers who are certified in humane handling of livestock are allowed to deliver animals to the company’s plants. TQA is a system of training and performance measures for the handling and transportation of pigs. Under the TQA program, drivers and handlers of livestock are trained on the requirements of their role in ensuring swine well-being and pork quality. Cargill now requires that any transporter of hogs to its facilities must be TQA-certified. Any hauler not certified may not pass through the company gates.

“It is straightforward — if a driver isn’t certified, he’s stopped at our gates,” Jones says. “Federal regulations cover animal handling in our processing plants, but there is no strict oversight of transportation prior to arriving at our plants. We decided to step up and take a leadership role to help ensure that all parts of the supply chain do what is needed.”

What’s more, Cargill says 20 of its plant animal-handling personnel — more than any other pork processor — are being trained and certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization.  

Besides the PACCO training, all Cargill plant employees that handle livestock receive specialized training in humane animal handling. Plant employees receive approximately 82 hours of animal-welfare training each per year. Management personnel in the facilities are required to be TQA-certified, and supervisors that work with animals in the pens are certified instructors in TQA. “We believe we have created the most comprehensive, humane animal-handling training and certification program in the industry to ensure that we are being conscientious about the animals under our care and protection,” Jones says.

For more than two years, Cargill has demonstrated its commitment to animal welfare through the use of video monitoring in its plants. Video monitoring is designed to help animal-welfare management teach and monitor performance in animal handling. In the future, this system will be enhanced by new technologies.

Further, Cargill established a Trucker Recognition Program in March 2008 that spotlights livestock haulers for individual performance in the proper handling of hogs. This program, in part, has been important in achieving a significant reduction in non-ambulatory hogs delivered to company plants. Cargill offers incentives to truckers for superior performance in hauling healthy livestock to its plants.

Cargill Pork also has implemented an animal-rescue program to respond to emergencies during transportation. Training for the team was provided by Jennifer Woods. The company has devoted trailers and teams in the Midwest to respond to truck accidents where swine are being transported.

“Our team is ready to respond to situations that need immediate attention,” Worstell said.

The company is spearheading a national effort with the Pork Board to make animal rescue a national program.

Source: Cargill news release