Cargill is one of the largest beef processors in North America. We work closely with beef animal welfare experts, including world renowned Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Lily Edwards-Callaway of Colorado State University and their team of graduate student researchers, to ensure we are a leader in best practices.
From the care cattle receive prior to transport to our plants, to the care they receive prior to processing, Cargill works with suppliers to ensure animals are properly cared for and handled.
Humane handling on the farm/ranch
Cargill purchases cattle from a variety of suppliers, including strategic partnerships with feedlots and purchases on the open market.
We have met and continue to exceed our commitment that 90% of our U.S. feed yard cattle supply be purchased from yards that are Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified.
In the U.S., Cargill supports the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, which is a set of animal welfare guidelines for use by dairy farmers. We also require suppliers to implement industry best practices on their farms and feedlots. For example, suppliers for our Excel™ Never Ever program must sign an affidavit indicating they are providing proper care to their cattle, backed up by third-party audits.
In Canada, our beef supply is raised in accordance with the Canadian Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle and Dairy Cattle. Cargill supports the Verified Beef Production Plus standards for producers and is a technical contributor to this program. The vast majority (99%) of dairy cattle entering our beef supply chain originate from producers registered by ProAction, an on-farm assurance program of Dairy Farmers of Canada. This program focuses on animal welfare for dairy cows and includes animal care requirements based on both the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle and a third-party auditing program. Cargill also supports the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Quality Assurance program, which requires producers to have an independently audited feeding and management program.
Humane handling at processing
Since the early 1990s, Cargill has worked with internationally renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin to improve the design of our cattle processing facilities with the goal of reducing animal stress and improving comfort as much as possible.
Cargill was the first major beef processor to incorporate Dr. Grandin’s cattle pen, serpentine walkway and center track restrainer system for reducing animal stress during cattle processing when it was installed at the company’s Schuyler, Nebraska, beef plant in the early 1990s. This system has been widely replicated throughout the beef industry in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including at other Cargill facilities.
Each Cargill beef employee who has, or could have, contact with live animals is trained via Cargill’s Certified Animal Handler Program. Employees must pass a test, and training is updated on a yearly basis as new regulations and/or scientific developments are implemented. Program topics include Dr. Grandin’s animal welfare philosophy (flight zone, point of balance, etc.), euthanasia procedures, cattle handling, facility design, “see it, stop it, report it” policy and regulations.
Cargill employs a zero-tolerance policy on animal abuse. We do not tolerate abusive behavior directed at animals by employees, suppliers, transporters or others in our supply chains. Cargill has a robust and innovative auditing program designed specifically for cattle processing.
Transporters, visitors and vendors sign animal welfare policy documents and are expected to follow U.S. or Canadian government animal welfare regulations and Cargill policies on animal welfare, personal conduct and safety.
We were the first major beef processor to install remote video auditing (RVA) by a third-party provider at our North America processing facilities. Video streams of animal-people interactions during active handling periods are fed from cameras in our plant to trained third-party auditors who analyze them and provide feedback.
Additionally, audits are conducted daily by PAACO-certified personnel, Cargill’s Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory team and yearly by a third party. These audits and all of our cattle processing standards across the U.S. and Canada are based on North American Meat Institute (NAMI) guidelines.
Additionally, daily or per-shift audits are conducted by U.S. and Canadian government regulatory authorities: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Learn more about how cattle are handled in Cargill’s beef processing plants in a NAMI video filmed at our Fort Morgan, Colorado, beef processing facility.
In the U.S., Cargill supports the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) certification program for all cattle transporters in North America. We also played a key role in the development of the program as a technical advisor because we believe in educating transporters in best practices to assure optimal animal welfare outcomes. All drivers delivering cattle to our U.S. slaughter plants are certified by the Beef Quality Assurance Transportation and Training Certification Program (BQAT) for cattle transporters.
In Canada, transporters delivering cattle to our plants adhere to the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals for Transportation. We also support the Canadian Livestock Transport Certification Program and serve as a technical contributor.
More than 90% of the beef cattle Cargill processes in North America are transported from point of origin to destination in less than 8 hours, whereas the current regulatory maximum is 28 or 36 hours in transit in the U.S. and Canada, respectively.
Industry standards and guidelines
Cargill abides by numerous guidelines and audit criteria established by third-party experts. These organizations invest in fact- and science-based research to validate program protocols, processes and procedures in a manner which promotes continuous improvement and assures humane handling and processing for food animals.
- In the U.S. and Canada, our cattle are slaughtered according to North American Meat Institute (NAMI) standards. Cargill serves as a technical contributor to these guidelines.
- Additionally, all drivers delivering cattle to our U.S. slaughter plants are certified by the Beef Quality Assurance Transportation and Training Certification Program (BQAT) for cattle transporters.
- Likewise, we meet and exceed our commitment that 90% of our U.S. feed yard cattle supply come from yards that are Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified, a program that educates cattle producers in animal handling best practices, including optimal antibiotic use.
- We support the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program, a set of animal welfare guidelines for use by dairy farmers.
- We employ more than 30 Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) certified auditors.
- In Canada, our cattle supply is raised in accordance with the Canadian Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle and Dairy Cattle.
- The vast majority (99%) of the dairy cattle entering our beef supply chain in Canada originate from producers registered by proAction, an on-farm assurance program of Dairy Farmers of Canada that includes a third-party auditing program.
- Transporters delivering cattle to our Canadian plants adhere to the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals for Transportation.
- We also support several other assurance programs in Canada, including Verified Beef Production Plus, the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Quality Assurance Program and the Canadian Livestock Transport Certification Program.
In the U.S., our processing plants comply with USDA regulations, which include the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the Humane Slaughter of Livestock Act and the FSIS Directive on the Humane Handling and Slaughter of Livestock.
In Canada, our processing plants comply to Canada’s Health of Animal Regulations and CFIA requirements outlined in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, including its animal welfare requirements.
Each of our North American processing plants have government employed veterinarians and inspection staff, and they, along with our PAACO-certified auditors and trained employees, oversee the onsite health, quality and handling of the animals we process. Government personnel audit our processes, documentation and training records to ensure compliance.
Links to these regulations:
- US: USDA-FSIS Directive 6900.2
- US: § 1901 and § 1902 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act
- US: 9 CFR § 313 series: Humane Slaughter of Livestock
- Canada Health of Animal Regulations (HAR)
- Food for Canadians regulations
Cargill funds animal wellbeing research to provide critical insights and train undergraduate and graduate students to be future industry leaders.
In the U.S., we have longstanding relationships with universities that provide scientific insight to improve our beef wellbeing program. These include Texas Tech University, Kansas State University, Texas A&M University, Oklahoma State University, Colorado State University and others.
Collectively, we focus on research that leads to continuous improvement, better herd health and wellbeing, as represented by the following research topics.
Cattle Health and Wellbeing:
Cattle Handling and Equipment:
- Carcass Bruising Associated with Cattle Unloading
- Modified Trailer Design to Accommodate Larger Cattle
- Cattle Handling Techniques and Carcass Merit
- Cattle Stunning at Slaughter
- Cattle Pen Space at Slaughter Facilities