KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Although remote video auditing (RVA) is not new, the applications and benefits of the technology in meat-processing plants is still being realized by the industry. In a presentation during the second day of AMI’s Animal Care and Handling conference, Mike Siemens, director of animal welfare and husbandry for Cargill Meat Solutions, shared what the company has learned during its process of incorporating RVA into its meat facilities.

“Three-and-a-half years ago, at this conference, we heard Adam Aronson from Arrowsight speak about RVA,” Siemens said. “Right after he spoke I ran into him in the elevator and immediately told him we needed to get a video auditing program started at Cargill – and that was when we started our process.”

Incorporating RVA into its plants to improve its animal welfare and food safety programs has been a learning process at Cargill, Siemens said. “We’ve learned a lot along the way, some of which could have saved us time and energy had we known it ahead of time.”

First, Siemens explained, there must be an unwavering commitment by management. “If everyone’s not behind this process, you are not going to be successful.”

It’s also important to have “clearly defined expectations of what you’re looking for,” he said. “Every operation is different.”

Updated IT infrastructure is another crucial element to a successful RVA program, one of which Cargill was lacking when it first started the process. “This is a very important aspect of setting up RVA and in our situation it was something that set us back six months or so.”

Before installing cameras around the facility it’s important to clearly define audit locations, properly position high-quality cameras in areas for optimum visibility and audibility and set up proper lighting that will effectively light what’s being videotaped without attracting the animals to the light. After operational, it’s essential to properly maintain the cameras to ensure the lenses stay clean and focused.

“After your system is in use, you must have clear, concise and consistent information sharing,” Siemens said. “Cameras in plants are nothing new – but the way we are using the information we are gathering from these cameras is new and can be very useful to any operation.”

RVA systems aren’t all about catching incorrect behavior, they can be effectively used to observe and consequently reward good behavior in the plant, Siemens said. “After you’ve defined what you’re looking for you can outline consistent responses to any observed activities, both good and bad.”

Mike Moshier, president of manufacturing at Arrowsight, added, “RVA is most effective when it’s used as a carrot and not as a stick.”