Ethical Raising, Transport and Harvesting
All animals harvested by Cargill are stunned prior to processing. It is essential to render an animal unconscious before it is slaughtered in order for it to be insensible to pain, discomfort and stress, until death occurs. Cargill ensures that all conventional meat and poultry comes from animals that have all been rendered unconscious prior to slaughter in order for them to be insensible to pain and distress until death. This applies to all species of animals across all of our global businesses.
Cargill’s European poultry policy on Animal Welfare states: Poultry meat production takes place in hygienic EU approved facilities, operating with trained staff and with effective stunning processes to minimize stress.
Cargill understands that live animal transportation can create stress, so we do everything possible to lower the stress level for animals being transported to our processing facilities. Therefore we make every effort to minimize transportation and journey times.
Nearly all – 90-plus-percent – of the beef cattle and dairy cattle that Cargill processes in North America are transported from point of origin to final destination in less than eight hours, whereas the regulatory maximum is 28 hours in transit. Beef and dairy cattle processed by Cargill in Canada and Australia also meet the transportation regulation requirements for those nations (36 hours for Canada and 48 hours for Australia). Additionally, Cargill suppliers of beef, pork, poultry and dairy products are expected to abide by a country’s livestock transportation regulations and transit time requirements for animals being processed.
Although Canadian regulations allow a current maximum of 36 hours in transit (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is proposing a change to 24 hours), Cargill’s Canadian broiler business processes chickens that come from an average of two hours travel time from our facility. Similarly, European regulations restrict transport of livestock and poultry to a current maximum of 12 hours without food and water, with our European broiler business requiring only about four hours of transit time. Our Asia chicken businesses in China and Thailand also abide by the 12-hour maximum between catching and stunning birds, making the actual transit time usually much less than 12 hours.
All of our global businesses will abide by local animal transportation regulations and, in regions of the world where transportation regulations may not exist, we will adhere to industry best practices and animal welfare transportation requirements of third party external audits. Our plants work with transporters to schedule journey times and trips that minimize animal stress as much as possible. This applies to all species of animals across all regions of our business.
In addition to having clear policy commitments and management practices, companies are expected to maintain strict measurement criteria for animals in their supply chain. This question is looking specifically at measures linked to the harvest of animals in their supply chains. It is essential to render an animal unconscious before it is slaughtered in order for it to be insensible to pain, discomfort and stress, until death occurs.
We abide by regional transportation regulations for all of our animal species. Where there is no transportation regulation, we abide by third party customer audit animal welfare criteria, which include transportation requirements.
Cargill is currently supporting National Farm Animal Care Council’s plans to update the Canadian national Transportation Code of Practice to better address welfare issues that concern Canadians regarding the transportation of poultry and livestock.
Also, China began drafting the country's first welfare standard for the farming and slaughter of livestock and poultry. It will be the first industry welfare standard for livestock in China and will cover pigs, chicken, sheep and cattle. The Chinese Veterinary Medical Association has partnered with many leading businesses in farming, harvesting, food processing and food services to develop the standards. Cargill is offering its expertise to the development of these standards – part of which includes best practices for the humane transportation of animals.
Cargill works hard to minimize the stress associated with transportation and minimizes journey length wherever possible. This applies to all species across all of our businesses.
Cargill is committed to providing its customers, and ultimately consumers, with high quality protein options. To provide protein on the scale required by current market demand, and future needs to feed a growing global population, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) represent an important tool used to optimize the supply of wholesome, nutritious, abundant and affordable protein. Operated properly, CAFOs are effective and efficient, as well as being a more sustainable means of resource utilization. The health and wellbeing of animals in feedlots and barns supplying Cargill is closely monitored. We know that healthy animals are more productive animals. Cargill does not want animals to suffer from illness or injury, nor do we want sick animals in the food supply.
In addition to optimizing the use of resources needed for protein production, CAFOs also generate waste that is composted and converted to fertilizer used on farms, replacing chemical-based fertilizers. Over time, improved animal genetics and feed formulations, combined with enhanced CAFO management, are resulting in more sustainable production of meat, egg and dairy protein to feed the world’s population, now and in the future.
Our position on egg layer housing
In the United States, Cargill is a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, and the Coalition’s commercial-scale, scientific research is fundamental in helping us understand the benefits and potential drawbacks of various housing types. We are using the insights from this research to actively address some of the potential challenges associated with cage-free egg production that the research has identified, while maintaining the benefits of this type of housing.
With a clear understanding of long-term cage-free trends, Cargill has been working closely with its egg suppliers to pioneer efforts that will enable us to meet the future needs of our customers and help them grow their business. While we do not own egg laying hens, we anticipate future egg supply agreements involving new construction and remodeling of layer housing will only require cage-free configurations.
We have entered into multiple long-term agreements to meet cage-free requirements by customers, including construction of new housing and re-modeling of existing housing. Cage-free agreements are currently being finalized with additional Cargill egg suppliers.
In Brazil we work closely with our egg farmers to ensure eggs are affordable and hens are kept in a safe, sustainable environment. We understand the high standards our customers, communities and suppliers have come to expect from us. We work with the best minds in the industry, utilizing academic research and the expertise of government agencies and non-governmental organizations to continuously improve animal welfare across all categories, including laying hens.
With the help of these experts, we work closely with our suppliers to ensure animal safety and welfare, while at the same time delivering egg availability and affordability for our customers.
We recognize that the transition costs for our egg farmers to migrate to cage free systems are significant and will require time to implement. In Brazil we will continue to work closely with suppliers to move toward 100% cage free eggs by 2025, provided we have adequate supply, sufficient consumer demand and pricing is affordable for our customers.
In the United Kingdom, our broiler chickens are reared in a barn environment and we offer 2% free range products, which satisfies current market demand.
Until the company sold its pork business in October 2015, Cargill was one of the largest pork producers in the U.S. The company made a commitment to move to group housing for its sows that produce hogs for pork. Company-owned facilities were 100 percent group housing by early 2015. Contract hog farms that contained Cargill-owned sows began transitioning to 100 percent group housing to meet an end-of-calendar-2017 deadline. The hogs produced by Cargill-owned sows represented approximately 30 percent of the total hogs harvested annually at the company’s two former pork processing facilities in Illinois and Iowa. While we no longer own pork production operations, we do process and market pork products as part of our protein business.
Many farm animals are subjected to alteration procedures, often with no anesthesia, causing pain and distress. Examples include beak trimming, castration of beef cattle with knives, branding with hot irons, dehorning of dairy cattle with hot irons, castration and tail docking of pigs.
Cargill does not carry out physical alterations on cattle while under our care. We do not perform tail docking, dehorning or disbudding of any of our cattle. We support all national programs with regard to physical alterations and pain mitigation associated with various procedures. We do not perform physical alterations on any of our broiler chickens.
Physical alterations of any sort are taken seriously and avoided where possible. If any procedures must be performed, we will follow current science-based, industry-proven, best practices in order to minimize the impact of the procedure. This applies to all animals in our care and the same expectations extend to our suppliers.
Cargill records and reports on welfare outcome measures (e.g. Cattle gait scoring, lameness scoring, poultry foot pad lesions, broken wings, etc.) as part of our regular internal and external third party audits as well as customer audits. This is conducted for all species and across all geographies. We do not publicly disclose these results.