Fresh Food

The Future of Agriculture

Tyson Fresh Meats’ FarmCheck® program follows National Agriculture Day’s tenets
Photograph courtesy of Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) will host its 46th National Agriculture Day on March 14. This year’s theme is “Agriculture: Food for Life,” which will be celebrated in classrooms and communities across the country.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • Understand how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

Tyson Fresh Meats believes in the future of agriculture, particularly when it comes to livestock and poultry farms, through the FarmCheck® program that helps make a difference in the food supply chain.

Learn more about the FarmCheck® program

Tyson Fresh Meats launched its FarmCheck® program in October 2012. The on-farm audit program is meant to ensure farmers do not mistreat farm animals that supply Tyson and that training is in place for farm employees on proper animal handling. The program involves third-party animal-welfare experts who visit each farm in Tyson’s supply chain to check on such things as animal access to food and water, proper human-animal interaction and worker training.

The FarmCheck® program’s scope is based on a statistical analysis of each protein supply chain. This analysis allows the company to determine the number of farms that should be audited each year, so that over a three-year period, Tyson can be 99% confident that 95% or more of its supply chain complies with the standards of the program.

As a part of its FarmCheck® program, Tyson analyzes several criteria on the farms audited to gauge the physical, emotional and behavioral well-being of the animals. For example, a few of the welfare outcome measures looked at include:

  • Poultry: When auditing poultry operations, Tyson checks the foot pads on a group of 30 birds that are between 14 and 28 days of age and notes any lesions. In addition, a gait score is given to the producer for the previous seven days of production, depicting the number of birds that are observed out of 100 that are unable to stand and walk. Also assessed are housing conditions, inspection for injuries or illness and observations of the catching operations.
  • Swine: Although Tyson transitioned to utilizing the Common Swine Industry Audit platform in 2016, FarmCheck® has always focused on verifying key aspects of animal welfare, such as proper human-animal interaction, proper caretaker training, access to food and water and the body condition of the animals. Through this initiative, Tyson is able to verify that its suppliers are striving to provide the best possible care to their hogs, regardless of the operation type or system.
  • Cattle: When auditing cattle feed yards and livestock markets, Tyson references the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines. BQA is a national program that provides guidelines for beef cattle production, educational programs and industry cooperation for improving best practices. Additionally, Tyson established a goal that requires all of our beef producers to be Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) trained by 2019.

FarmCheck® program’s additional research

The FarmCheck® program also supports additional farm animal welfare research. With guidance from an animal well-being advisory panel, Tyson reviews existing research, as well as funds and promotes additional research, with the goal of continued improvements in animal raising methods and to the FarmCheck® program.

FarmCheck® program’s checks and balances

Taking a step further, the well-being advisory panel also provides guidance and direction on various projects throughout the year such as:

  • Expertise for Tyson’s antibiotic working groups
  • Blueprint reviews on facility design with a focus on animal welfare
  • The help needed for Tyson to make informed decisions about new animal welfare technologies
  • Any undercover video reviews needed and feedback on what Tyson’s doing right and where improvements can be made
  • Animal welfare training in plants and on-farm audit programs

This post is sponsored by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.