Animal Health and Well-being

Indicator Definition

The cumulative effects of cattle health, nutrition, care and comfort.

Why is this indicator important to the packer and processor sector?

Ensuring that cattle have the highest standards of health and welfare is beneficial to both the packer and processor sector and the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the entire beef industry.

Metrics

Level 1:

Packer: Does the company have a comprehensive animal welfare program including third-party verification?
Processor: Does the company have a documented animal welfare policy (or equivalent), and encourage the adoption of USRSB animal health and well-being metrics?

Level 2:

Packer: What is the company’s total number of USDA non-compliance animal welfare violations per 100,000 head processed in the previous calendar year? What percentage of cattle come under a third-party audit? What percentage pass on first audit?

Processor: Does the company use second or third-party animal welfare audits, such as the North American Meat Institute’s (NAMI), Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide to verify compliance with its policy at least to the packer level?

Level 3:

Does the company track animal health and well-being over time and set goals for continued improvement? Does the company engage its suppliers or participate in partnership, initiatives or programs to advance continuous improvement regarding animal health and well-being in the beef value chain?

Why did we choose these metrics?

Packers and processors, as all sectors of the beef value chain, have a responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of animals under their control are prioritized. Also, from an economic sustainability view, stressful handling of cattle during loading and unloading can decrease carcass quality and yield. Ensuring that cattle health and well-being is prioritized is crucial so that injuries of cattle on site are avoided. Additionally, improper handling of cattle can result in team member health and safety concerns.

Desired Outcomes

Facilities and companies that develop plans and programs around the metrics listed above improve sustainability outcomes of animal health and well-being through:

  • Decreased cattle stress and improved employee safety while handling cattle
  • Improved cattle welfare (as aligned with current packer/processor audits) and respect of their natural behavior
  • Continued safety and quality of beef products
  • Avoidance of product loss
  • Improved reputation of animal welfare in the packing plant

Why do these outcomes matter?

Stressful handling during loading and unloading of animals can decrease carcass quality and yield. Additionally, improper handling of cattle can result in team member health and safety concerns. Finally, ensuring that cattle health and welfare is prioritized is crucial so that injuries of cattle on site are avoided.

Success Criteria

1.  Increased number of companies that have a comprehensive animal welfare program, including third-party validation

2.  Increased number of companies with a documented animal welfare policy (or equivalent)

3.  Reduced number of USDA non-compliance animal welfare violations

4.  Increased number of cattle that are included in a third-party audit

5.  Increased number of third-party audits passed on the first audit

6.  Increased number of companies that track animal health and well-being over time and set goals for continued improvement

7.  Increased number of companies that engage their suppliers or participate in partnership, initiatives or programs to advance continuous improvement regarding animal health and well-being in the beef value chain

How do these metrics continuously improve beef sustainability?

Ensuring that cattle have the highest standards of health and welfare is beneficial to both individual beef producers and the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the entire beef industry.

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