Responsible Animal Treatment
Producing the highest-quality, brand-name foods and meat products for consumers throughout the world starts with industry-leading animal care practices. For 120 years, Hormel Foods has focused on treating animals humanely simply because it is the right thing to do.
We base our animal husbandry practices on the best scientific data available, new technologies and hands-on experience. The combination of these factors allows us to have a consistent, successful and measurable animal care program. Throughout this section of the report, we outline our commitment and policies related to animal care for hogs and turkeys.
Topics in this section include:
- Raising Our Animals
- Research/Innovation and Investment
- Industry Representation
- Industry Collaboration
Raising our Animals: Husbandry
Our commitment to ensuring all animals are raised in a healthy environment and treated properly starts with training, reinforcement and knowledge of each person’s skills, while he or she interacts with each hog and turkey. We expect training and proper animal management to be the foundation of each production facility’s culture and reinforced daily in the behavior exhibited by all employees. Our animals come from both company-owned farms and independent family farms. We hold our company management staff and the independent producers who supply animals to Hormel Foods to the highest standards. We also encourage employees at company farms and at independent family farms to hold each other accountable for proper animal care techniques.
To protect our animals from extreme weather conditions, predators and disease, the hogs and turkeys are raised in barns with climate-controlled environments. Within these facilities, 100 percent of the market hogs for Hormel Foods are housed in group pens and 100 percent of the turkeys raised by Jennie-O Turkey Store are housed in open barns.
Through each phase of production, we expect employees at our farms and producers that supply hogs and turkeys to Hormel Foods to practice the judicious use of medications. Our producers and veterinarians use medications responsibly because nothing is more important than public health, including a safe food supply and animal well-being.
Licensed veterinarians prescribe approved medications and dosage levels to properly treat, control and prevent illness in animals. These items are all regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which evaluates the medication’s possible affects on human health and the environment and impact on resistance. Furthermore, the agency has the authority to ban animal drugs it feels are a risk to human health.
We also follow industry programs outlining guidelines for using medications such as antibiotics responsibly. These programs include the National Pork Board’s “Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly” and the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s “Principles of Judicious Therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials.” These written procedures are one of the many safeguards in place to ensure antibiotics are used to keep animals healthy without harming public health.
In addition to endorsing the “Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly” program from the National Pork Board, Hormel Foods requires all producers to sign the company’s “Quality Management System” document, which requires that all hog producers who supply hogs to Hormel Foods and employees of these producers who work with hogs to be certified in Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus. This program focuses on 10 good production practices (GPP), which includes a chapter about proper antibiotic use. An additional six GPPs cover topics about medication.
At company-owned hog and turkey operations, we have seven licensed veterinarians who are responsible for overseeing the direction and management of all livestock health assurance programs. At our hog operations, the veterinarians are responsible for ensuring the guidelines outlined by “Take Care. Use Antibiotics Responsibly” are followed and all employees who work with animals are PQA Plus certified.
In addition to the work we have done with our producers, we have increased monitoring for antibiotic residues at our production facilities as well. Along with the random statistical sampling testing performed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), we have initiated our own testing program using the Charm KIS rapid test. This is the same test the USDA has provided for their inspection personnel to use. Since 2008, we have conducted random residue testing on more than 4,900 hogs. These test results confirm our producers are using antibiotics responsibly and are following the GPPs identified in the PQA Plus program. With these steps, we are able to assure our customers the pork products produced from these animals meet the highest standards for food safety and quality.
Animal Care Research/Innovation and Investment
At Hormel Foods, we continually evaluate, invest and develop new ways to improve our hog and turkey handling processes.
We operate a state-of-the-art hog holding facility at our plant in Austin, MN. This structure was developed with animal care and working conditions for employees as the top priority. Additionally, we have received a patent for our process related to improving turkey handling at Jennie-O Turkey Store.
At our processing plants, we invest in employee training to ensure workers are educated about the proper way to handle and move animals throughout our facilities. All personnel involved in receiving hogs and turkeys at our processing facilities are routinely trained to guarantee proper and humane handling of all animals. We also require that these employees review and agree to follow a personal pledge of conduct on an annual or quarterly basis. This document outlines principles for animal care and handling.
In addition to training, we conduct routine audits at our facilities and hire third-party auditors. We use information from each audit to continuously improve our animal handling procedures.
Documentation is an essential element of our training and auditing procedures. Within our records, we keep a copy of each audit report and a file for each employee that outlines his or her training and recertification qualifications.
Industry representation in national and local organizations helps Hormel Foods share ideas and best practices within the food industry regarding animal care and handling and humane processing. We are proud to have a representative serving as a member, as an officer or on the board of directors of various industry organizations, which include:
- Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Midwest Food Processors Board of Directors
- Midwest Poultry Research Committee
- Minnesota Turkey Federation Board of Directors
- National Feed and Grain Association
- National Turkey Federation’s Board of Directors
- National Turkey Federation’s Executive Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Health and Welfare Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Issues Management Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Live Production Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee
- Northwest Feed Manufacturers Association
- Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization
- State of Wisconsin Livestock Facility Siting Review Board
- Texas Tech International Center for Food Industry Excellence Board of Directors
- United States Animal Health Association
- University of Wisconsin Meal Science Advisory Board
- University of Wisconsin Poultry Science Advisory Committee
- Wisconsin Agriculture Coalition
Treating animals humanely is simply the right thing to do. This philosophy carries through in our openness to share our company’s best practices and state-of-the-art facility designs with other companies and individuals involved in the industry. We accomplish this through hosting representatives for first-hand tours of facilities, industry presentations and industry collaboration. Within the hog and turkey industries, Hormel Foods is seen as a leader for developing and implementing animal care and handling procedures.
For example, we support and participate in the Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization (PAACO) by inviting trainers and trainees to visit and see first-hand our hog facilities and turkey facilities as part of the real-world training component of the program. Eleven members of the Jennie-O Turkey Store team and Hormel Foods teams are PAACO-certified auditors. One of our Hormel Foods employees is also a certified instructor for the program. To support continuing research within the turkey industry, Jennie-O Turkey Store provides support to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council and the National Turkey Federation.
Read more about our commitment to animal care: