In a letter to its pork suppliers, Tyson outlined five initiatives the company wants its contract suppliers to adopt. The notification comes after Smithfield Foods asked its suppliers to convert their sow-housing systems to group housing for pregnant sows. The letter was signed by Shane Miller, senior vice president, Pork Division, Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., and Dean Danilson, Ph.D., vice president, Animal Well Being Programs, Tyson Foods.
As part of FarmCheck, the company's ongoing animal well-being program, Tyson is increasing audits of sow farms. "The third-party audits we began in 2012 are important in our efforts to help ensure responsible on-farm treatment of animals and we believe more audits will further validate good sow farm management practices," the company said in the letter.
Additional measures Tyson is implementing include:
• Urging all pork producers to use video monitoring on their sow farms to increase oversight and decrease biosecurity risks. Tyson is asking its contract farmers to install video monitoring systems by the end of 2014.
• Urging producers to discontinue use of manual blunt-force trauma to euthanize sick and injured piglets. Tyson said that the practice "may not match the expectations of today's customer's or consumers" although blunt-force trauma has been acceptable in the industry.
• Supporting the use of anesthetics and analgesics as pain mitigation for tail docking and castration of piglets. "Although this is a topic of debate within our industry, we believe current practices need to improve," the company said. "Tyson will fund research to further improve practical pain mitigation methods. In the meantime, we encourage producers to adopt practices that reduce or eliminate the pain associated with these procedures, including the use of anesthetics and analgesics that are approved for use in pigs and/or are permissible under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA)."
• Urging pork producers to improve "quality and quantity of space" standards in the design of any new or redesigned gestation barns beginning in 2014. "Whether it involves gestation stalls, pens or some other type of housing, we believe future sow housing should allow sows of all sizes to stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs," Tyson said.
Tyson noted there are varying opinions on the issues addressed in its letter, but the company's stance is an effort to "balance the expectations of consumers with the realities of today’s hog-farming business".