The program includes four elements — an independent animal-care and well-being advisory council; thorough employee training; American Humane Association (AHA) Certification; and on-farm improvements and operational updates. Advisory council members serve two-year terms and have bi-annual meetings in addition to regular conference calls. Council members for 2013-2015 are:
• Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Professor of Animal Science, Colorado State Univ., and long-time Meat&Poultry columnist
• Joy Mench, Ph.D., Professor of Animal Science, Univ. of California-Davis
• Yvonne Thaxton, Ph.D., Center for Animal Well-Being, Univ. of Arkansas
• Jesse Grimes, Ph.D., Poultry Science Extension Specialist, North Carolina State Univ.
• Michael Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Poultry Health Management, North Carolina State Univ.
In mid-February 2012 police arrested six employees of a Butterball turkey farm in Hoke County, NC Butterball following the release of an undercover video that depicted animal abuses at the facility. A veterinarian with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture also was charged and suspended from her job in connection with the incident. So, Butterball strengthened its employee training programs. New hires receive training in animal care and well-being before their first day on the job, and training is mandatory for tenured workers. Also, Butterball employees receive additional training annually.
The company has applied for certification under the American Humane Certified program, a third-party humane certification program that emphasizes care of farm animals. Butterball turkeys were approved to carry the AHA certification label starting in 2013. The AHA is reviewing additional Butterball products for certification.
Finally, Butterball has implemented on-farm improvements and updated operational processes, and has pledged to continue evaluating its operations. Butterball is currently developing several pilot projects, including video surveillance of operations and recurring internal and third-party audits.
"We are proud of the progress we have made and we will continue to focus on improving Butterball’s initiatives to set a higher standard for the industry," the company said.