LITTLE ROCK — Springdale-based Tyson Foods said Wednesday it has launched a broad initiative to improve the care of chickens it uses for its products.
The company said it has implemented a remote video auditing system to monitor activities at poultry plants, has created a team of animal well-being specialists and is planning pilot projects to test a process for humanely rendering chickens unconscious, among other efforts.
“Ensuring the well-being of the animals in our care is a core part of our broader sustainability journey and these initiatives are the latest examples of our leadership in this important area,” Justin Whitmore, chief sustainability officer for Tyson, said in a news release. “We’re also piloting other potential innovations as we become the world’s most sustainable producer of protein.”
The company said its remote video auditing, or RVA, system is the U.S. meat industry’s most extensive system of its kind. A third party, the company Arrowsight, is conducting video monitoring at 33 poultry plants, and off-site auditors are analyzing the video and providing feedback to plant management to ensure excellence in animal-welfare practices, Tyson said.
Tyson also said it is launching an RVA pilot project to assess on-farm catching of birds for transport to processing facilities. Video will be audited and analyzed by Arrowsight for adherence to humane treatment of animals.
Tyson said it also has trained and deployed a team of nearly 60 dedicated full-time animal well-being specialists — the largest such team in the world — with at least one member deployed at every processing facility that handles live animals for the company, to ensure best-in-class training and practices. Half of the specialists are also involved in supporting animal well-being on the poultry farms that supply the company.
“Animal welfare is part science, part compassion, and it requires management commitment to learning, training and constant monitoring,” Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a member of Tyson Foods’ Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel, said in the release.
Tyson said it also will launch two pilot projects within the next year to test a process called “controlled atmosphere stunning,” in which gas is used to render birds unconscious before processing.
The company said it also is piloting research into chicken-house lighting and perches, working with poultry breeders on the relationship between breeding and bird health, and working on enhanced poultry nutrition and ventilation.
Tyson will host a live video session from a chicken farm on Thursday at 10 a.m. on its corporate Facebook page. It will include a Tyson Foods animal well-being specialist, a Tyson Foods veterinarian and a poultry farmer and will give viewers an opportunity to see first-hand how chickens are raised, the company said.