Welcome to Welfare Matters, a column written exclusively for www.meatpoultry.com that addresses the practical aspects of humane animal handling from the plant side of the equation, reinforcing the central notion that “Welfare Matters” to all of us, no matter what our role is in the food production community.

My name is Jerry Karczewski, and I’ve spent 30 years learning and applying tools to improve operational excellence in beef plants throughout the United States. Through such continuous improvement tools as Statistical Process Control (SPC), Six Sigma, and Kaizen, I have seen a huge growth in the meat industry’s performance in safety, food safety, product quality, and value optimization.

This objective approach to process improvement collided with public demand for humane animal handling in the meat industry in 1997, when the AMI Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit, authored by Dr. Temple Grandin, gained widespread public acceptance. I worked at a plant that was the first to incorporate the AMI Animal Handling Audit as a tool to improve the stunning and cattle handling process in the plant. The results of that objective approach to humane handling left a lasting impression on my professional career.

In subsequent years, my interest in animal welfare improvement grew exponentially. I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Grandin and other animal welfare leaders as a member of AMI’s Animal Welfare Committee, including four years serving as chairman.

This interest and passion around humane handling continues to drive my work today as owner of Karczewski Consulting. Part of our mission is to foster continuous improvement in animal welfare through commitment, communication, and collaboration. It is also the goal of this column.

Welfare Matters

This column will consider the basic aspects of the humane handling process at the plant level and practical ways to engage plant associates around these. The tools and topics considered will be simple, straightforward, and apply equally well to large multi-plant companies and the smallest independent facility.

Upcoming topics will cover these topics and many more: maintaining welfare; animal welfare audits as a continuous improvement tool; handling diverse cattle populations; employee safety and humane handling; and using a risk-based approach to animal welfare.

Later this month, this column will focus on “Maintaining Welfare.”
Some key points will be:

-Why good maintenance contributes to animal well being;

-Maintenance-not just nuts and bolts; and

-Setting up a process to manage the details.

Good maintenance not only enhances animal well-being in a plant, but also contributes to the smooth operating of the facility and reduces costs.

The most important factor in humane handling is the human factor. As we make this journey together, I share simple and practical tools from my experience and others in the industry that will enable the team in your plant to continually improve the animal handling process. It’s a journey that never ends.

With a background of working in various production roles for 30 years, from floor cleaner to plant general manager, Jerry is the owner of Karczewski Consulting (www.diversecattle.com) providing humane handling and plant operations services, with a focus on cull dairy cattle. Contact Jerry by e-mail at jerry_karczewski@live.com, or at 262-490-8293.