Dr. Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin (photo: Rosalie Winard)

After four years of work, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published an introductory document based on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) published welfare standards for slaughter transport and production of beef, dairy and broiler chickens. This document is a guide for developing an animal welfare plan. The main guidance document is Chapter 7.1 Article 7.1.4 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. This contains 11 General Principles of Animal Welfare. Fortunately, the document encourages the use of animal-based measures where the threshold values are based on peer-reviewed scientific literature. For slaughter and handling, there is now extensive peer-reviewed literature that supports the thresholds for stunning, electric prod use, falling and vocalization that are found in the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) guidelines.

The booklet is titled, “Animal Welfare Management – General Requirements and Guidance for Organizations in the Food Chain ISO/TS 34700.” It is an outline on how to set up your program, but unfortunately, it does not provide much practical guidance. It would be comparable to how each slaughter plant had to develop individual Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans. They had to figure it out for themselves.

In the section titled, “Developing an Animal Welfare Plan,” it discusses how to do a gap analysis of your plan. The directions are complicated and I will try to simplify them. A gap analysis is a method for looking at current performance and comparing it to a future performance goal. Your gap analysis should clearly identify your objectives for animal welfare (see chart for example).

You would also explain the corrective actions you used to improve scores and reduce the gap between actual scores and the goals. A possible example for improving stunning would be including the balancer for a heavy pneumatic stunner as part of an enhanced maintenance program. To reduce falling you might replace the worn out rubber mat in the stun box.

Another area where welfare could be improved is the condition of the animals that enter the plant. Some of threshold-based, animal-based outcome measures are percentages of animals that are non-ambulatory; have poor body condition score; show evidence of them being lame, dirty or injured. You could use the NAMI lameness scoring system for assessing lameness. There are also readily available body condition scoring charts for assessing the body condition of cull cows and sows. For the gap analysis, you could compare your baseline scores against goals for the future. Some of these goals could be based on published literature. There are many papers published in the peered reviewed literature in the Journal of Animal Science and the Journal of Dairy Science. You can easily search National Beef Quality Audit and other scientific papers on Google Scholar. The ISO guideline requires periodic review of your animal welfare plan. During this review, you can determine if you are closing the gap between your current performance and your goals.