ALTOONA — Tyson has decided to expand its animal welfare requirements to its beef and chicken suppliers, saying the giant meat processor wants to implement rules already in place for pork.
Tyson beef supply chain manager Lora Wright told Iowa cattle producers on Monday in Altoona that they must meet the requirements next year if they want to sell to Tyson, The Des Moines Register reported.
Wright told about 50 cattle producers at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s convention that the treatment guidelines are being driven by Tyson customers that include McDonald’s and Whole Foods.
“Animal well-being is not a new request for Tyson,” she said. “We’ve had customer inquiries for years about how our plants are taking care of animals once we receive them. What’s different now is that our customers want to know what programs are in place with our livestock suppliers.”
A third-party auditor will visit farms to ensure compliance on issues like how workers handle animals and whether animals have access to adequate food and water, the newspaper reported. Animal welfare advocates have pushed for the elimination of gestation crates that don’t provide pregnant hogs sufficient space to move.
In October 2012, the Springdale, Ark.-based company announced it was requiring about 3,000 hog producers to humanely care for their animals and said at the time it would expand the program to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014.
“Tyson feels it’s not just about gestation crates,” Wright said. “We’re a three-protein company — beef, pork and chicken — and we want to ensure that all livestock producers handle animals appropriately.”
Tyson has yet to categorize any pork producers’ practices as unacceptable, though it did distance itself recently from an Oklahoma pork producer accused of animal cruelty.
Some cattle producers questioned the requirements given there’s industry efforts aimed at doing the same thing. Wright said the company would work toward reducing duplication of animal welfare requirements, but she said independent auditing is needed.
“It can’t be a case of the wolf watching the hen house,” she said.
The annual convention at Prairie Meadows Event Center runs through Wednesday.