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Temple's Vision: More Humane Meat Production

When Dr. Temple Grandin creates her award-winning blueprint for the modern beef plant, Cargill is first to put it into practice. 

January 01, 2015

In 1991, Dr. Temple Grandin approached Cargill’s meat solutions business with a proposal. The author and professor of animal science, who is widely considered the world’s leading expert on humane animal handling, had an idea for an improved cattle-handling system. It was a project inspired, in part, by her life-long connection with animals.

At four years old, Grandin was diagnosed with a form of autism that allows her to perceive the world through pictures and symbols, much like animals. Grandin’s early exposure to an aunt’s cattle ranch, as well as her education, helped launch her creation of the live animal areas of meat processing plants, with an emphasis on livestock handling across the US beef business. Her findings prompted a series of critical enhancements ranging from how cattle are first received on-site to how they are staged, moved and harvested.

Grandin’s blueprint included holding pens in a herringbone pattern and a central walkway. The pens provided water and space for cattle to relax after arriving by truck. In addition, the walkways into the plants were widened and updated with high, solid walls in a curving, serpentine shape, meant to keep the livestock moving forward and free from distraction. Knowing that cattle naturally move from dark areas to light, she installed fixtures to help coax them to move from one area to the next.

It all resulted in a more tranquil and efficient process—one that is better for the animals, and therefore, safer for plant workers. Cargill was the first to implement Grandin’s approach and saw immediate improvements in both process and product quality.

After piloting the program, Cargill rolled out the design revisions across all of its beef and pork facilities in North America, setting a new standard in humane livestock treatment. The achievement was monumental—both for Cargill as a responsible corporation and for Grandin as an industry visionary.

“We at Cargill have worked with Temple for a long time, and I believe our businesses, our customers, our suppliers and our employees have been the beneficiaries of that working relationship,” says Dr. Mike Siemens, who heads Cargill’s animal welfare and husbandry efforts from Wichita, Kansas. “Our world is a better place because of Temple’s work, and we’re honored and privileged to be able to say that we collaborate with her to ensure the industry continuously improves and can measure its progress over time .”

“Our world is a better place because of Temple’s work.”
— Dr. Mike Siemens, Leader of Animal Welfare & Husbandry, Cargill

That progress has now expanded beyond the borders of North America, involving a broader range of livestock in production facilities across the globe.

Today, Grandin continues to serve as a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and travels the world as a speaker on autism and humane animal handling. In 2010, TIME Magazine featured her on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Grandin’s achievements also inspired an HBO biographical film, Temple Grandin, which received honors at both the Emmy Awards and the Golden Globes. Actress Claire Danes played Grandin.