Animal Welfare
Presenters at Animal Care & Handling Conference shared ideas. 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The meat and poultry industry agrees that animal care and handling is a complex issue, however according to Jason McAlister, animal welfare manager at Triumph Foods, St. Joseph, Mo., there are five steps any company can follow that will make the process a little more simple. McAlister shared his ideas at a session during the North American Meat Institute’s Animal Care & Handling Conference being held Oct. 13 and 14 in Kansas City.

The basic question McAlister tried to answer in his pork track breakout session was, “How do we get more pigs from the farm to harvest?” McAlister said it was as simple as following five guidelines: “Learning. Educating. Training. Auditing. Keeping records.”

He said, “These five things will help you get more pigs from the farm to the cooler.” In fact, he said the five steps would help with any animal handling issue in any operation

First, it’s crucial to learn from others in the industry, he explained. It’s important to talk about successes, and even more important to discuss failures.

Addressing education, McAlister explained how managers at Triumph Foods’ pork plant meet weekly to discuss learning opportunities, current events and lessons learned that week. Each manager has quarterly goals focused on what new things they can learn and master in their jobs – they never stop learning. “Educating managers has a trickle-down effect,” McAlister explained.

Training is another crucial step toward success. At Triumph, training is ongoing. Hourly workers train for a minimum of 22 hours annually. Training doesn’t just have to be held in a classroom, McAlister explained, it can take place in the truck, in the stockyard and in the finishing barn.

Auditing should also be ongoing. “We audit 18 times a day,” he said. Triumph constantly monitors and audits its operations so managers can analyze what is happening in the operations on an ongoing basis — this helps problems get solved in a timelier manner, McAlister added. Auditing also means taking a close look at failures. “Looking at a failure doesn’t feel good, but it’s a necessary way to develop solutions.”

Recordkeeping is another essential step, McAlister said. The company started tracking and trending data on the pigs that were lost in transit. “We learned a lot of things we didn’t know before when we did this,” he said.

There are no surefire ways to solve animal handling issues, McAlister explained, but sharing ideas and resources is one of the best ways to develop solutions. McAlister invited conference attendees to use “The Humane Way” as a resource. “The Humane Way” is a group made up of industry people from different companies that are involved in animal handling. The group works together, through emails and group discussions, to troubleshoot animal welfare issues. “Animal welfare should never be a competitive issue,” he said. “We all need to be resources to each other.”

Anyone interested in using “The Humane Way” as a resource can email [email protected].