Key Issues We Care About
Animal welfare is a crucial business priority for Cargill’s global businesses. As we deliver protein products to the world, we understand and embrace the responsibility to ensure animals are treated with respect and dignity.
We are committed to leading our industry by developing and implementing best practices for animal welfare through programs that comply with – and often exceed – legal requirements. We ensure that the animals under our care are raised in an environment that satisfies their physical, nutritional and health needs, and they are treated in a manner that provides comfort. We expect those who raise animals or supply us with ingredients to do the same.
In continued pursuit of animal welfare best practices across our protein portfolio, we are particularly focused on the key issues outlined below.
We are committed to providing our customers and global consumers with high-quality protein choices that are produced through healthy and humane conditions for all animals. In our own operations and those of our suppliers, the health and wellbeing of all animals is closely monitored. We do not want animals to suffer from illness or injury, both for their own sake and to safeguard human health.
For example, our broiler chickens are reared within specialized, controlled environments that are managed with strict biosecurity procedures to protect them from potential illness and other dangers. These birds are able to move freely within purpose-built houses and to exhibit natural behaviors, with unrestricted access to food and water to fully meet their nutritional needs. Farmers closely monitor all flocks daily to ensure their best possible health at all times. Key welfare indicators and other measurements are recorded on a daily basis to ensure that any abnormal trends are identified as quickly as possible.
Antibiotics & Growth Promotion
We are committed to reducing the use of human antibiotics in food production. We invest in research and innovation focused on doing so while maintaining our commitment to animal welfare and the production of safe, nutritious and affordable food.
While we support lowering overall antibiotic use and offering customer choice for animal products raised without antibiotics, we also believe the responsible, therapeutic use of antibiotics for sick animals helps maintain the safety of world food supplies. This prevents sick animals from entering the food supply, ensures they do not unnecessarily suffer from disease and supports our broader animal welfare and sustainability goals. Medicines are used only when necessary and under the control of authorized veterinary personnel in accordance with local regulations. If an animal requires antibiotic intervention, they are removed from our raised without antibiotics supply chain, regardless of species.
While numerical measurements of antibiotic reduction can be identified and achieved within integrated systems such as turkey, broiler chickens and eggs, those same measurements are not accessible to nonintegrated systems, such as beef, where cattle change hands at multiple touchpoints. To counteract the industry’s lack of traceability in the beef supply chain, Cargill continues to invest in best practices across sustainable land stewardship, research and development and animal welfare that will ultimately enable overall industry reduction in antibiotics.
In partnership with our suppliers, we take steps to confirm that all animals which reach our facilities have gone through the appropriate withdrawal period to remove any antibiotic residue within the animal’s system. To do so, we have standardized multiple checks to ensure no product enters the market that didn’t experience the appropriate withdrawal period. For example, within our beef supply chain, we’ve instituted technology that can hold cattle at the feedlot that hasn’t reached its withdrawal date, increased communications with our truck drivers on this issue, and maintained random product sampling by the USDA and FSIS, all in an effort to ensure compliance and guarantee food safety.
Raised Without Antibiotics
We are committed to offering consumer choice when it comes to animal products raised without antibiotics. For example, our turkey operations have demonstrated a strong track record over several years of industry leadership in reducing antibiotic use. All of Cargill’s turkey brands, including our Honeysuckle White® and Shady Brook Farms® turkeys, are raised without the use of growth-promoting antibiotics. Correspondingly, Cargill expanded our available turkey products through the creation of our Honest Turkey™ product line, which comes from turkeys that have never been treated with antibiotics. We also recently discontinued the use of routine antibiotics in our hatcheries. Additionally, in 2021, Cargill’s poultry business in China launched a line of chicken products raised without antibiotics to fulfill this consumer preference.
What We’ve Done
Some examples of our recent progress to lead in the reduction of antibiotics across our operations and supply chains include:
- We are a member of the International Consortium for Antibiotic Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), whose goal is to advance animal health and welfare through research across the supply chain. Additionally, we became members of the United Nations Foundation’s Antimicrobial Resistance Industry Group, helping set the global policy agenda on tackling antimicrobial resistance and build thought leadership and alignment on best practices.
- Cargill also supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Guidance for Industry 213, which proposes responsible use of antimicrobial drugs. Similarly, we support the Responsible Antimicrobial Use in the Canadian Chicken and Turkey Sectors policy, which proposes withdrawing the preventive use of Category 1 antibiotics that are important to human health.
- In 2018, Cargill donated US$150,000 to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to build a new state-of-the-art facility housing research into how the poultry industry can reduce the incidence of disease.
- For global broiler production, we have worked diligently to implement agricultural practices on farms that reduce the overall use of antibiotics in these operations. This has enabled us to reduce antibiotic use (milligrams per kilogram of meat) in broiler production across our global operations by 65% from 2014 to 2021.
- In 2014, Cargill announced we would eliminate antibiotics used for growth promotion in our U.S. turkey operations, which was achieved by the 2015 holiday season. And in 2016, Cargill ended the routine use of gentamicin – an antibiotic used in both human and animal healthcare – in the absence of disease for all our turkey brands.
- Our beef operations also have shown industry leadership in this area. In 2016, Cargill announced a 20% reduction in the use of shared-class antibiotics for beef cattle in our U.S. feed yards, as well as for those cattle in feed yards of a strategic partner that supplies cattle to Cargill. The total annual number of cattle represented by this decision is more than 1 million. Cargill was the first major cattle feeder to do this. By the end of 2020, we reduced the use of shared-class antibiotics in 35% of the fed beef cattle that we process in the U.S.
It is our aim that all the animals under our care are raised in a setting that considers their overall wellbeing, including the expression of natural behaviors considered appropriate for their respective rearing situations.
For example, our U.S. egg processing operations understand that environmental enrichments are crucial to cage-free systems. We require all our cage-free eggs to originate from systems that provide nest boxes, perches, forage and dustbathing areas, and scratch pads. These must comply with the requirements set forth by United Egg Producers, American Humane or Humane Farm Animal Care, and their provision is independently validated through an annual animal welfare audit.
Additionally, we ask our supplier producers to continually evaluate other enrichments including alfalfa bales, pecking stones, mineral blocks, paracord string and limestone baths. Our joint goal is continuous improvement.
Beef and dairy cattle we slaughter are provided with protection and relief from weather conditions during the few hours they are in our care. This includes covered lairage that provides shade in summer and shelter from wind, rain, snow and hail. It also includes fans and sprinklers in areas that are prone to hot weather to help keep cattle cool.
A humane euthanasia plan is a necessary component of a reputable animal welfare program. Even at the best managed farms and processing plants, and during the safest transportation journeys, situations will arise that will require animals to be euthanized to alleviate pain and mitigate suffering.
Approved forms of humane euthanasia will provide minimal distress during application, rapid loss of consciousness and a quick and painless death. The animals we raise and/or process for food deserve a respectful death, and Cargill is committed to remaining at the forefront of new science and technology to implement the most humane methods of euthanasia when necessary.
We support the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s recommended methods of humane euthanasia for beef, dairy and pork animals.
Physical Alterations & Pain Management
At Cargill, physical alterations of any sort are taken seriously and avoided wherever possible. If any procedures must be performed, we 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 takes seriously the pain associated with the physical alteration of animals and encourages producers to avoid them when possible. We are encouraged by the advancements in pain management research and technology. Cargill supports and encourages the U.S. Federal Drug Administration’s approval of analgesics for soothing pain in animals.
At Cargill, 100% of the animals processed by us and by our suppliers – across all geographies and for all animal species – undergo pre-slaughter stunning. Every animal in our supply chains and operations is stunned prior to slaughter, regardless of species or geographic origin.
Rendering animals insensible to pain prior to slaughter is critical to our commitment for ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare are met. This is why we conduct daily internal animal welfare audits at each Cargill processing plant, which include a critical checkpoint to ensure proper and effective stunning.
For example, in each of our North American processing plants, we have implemented remote video auditing (RVA) systems for third-party external auditing of our processes, which confirm that animals are rendered insensible prior to slaughter. We were the first major protein producer in the industry to take this step. Cargill’s third-party RVA provider audits nearly 250,000 head of cattle annually at the company’s processing facilities, in addition to auditing more than 42,000 Canadian broiler chickens weekly, and more than 47,000 turkeys weekly in the U.S.
As another example, within our Canadian broiler operations, Cargill has transitioned from an electric water stunning system to a Controlled Atmospheric Stunning (CAS) system. This system has been successfully deployed since 2018. An internal committee has been charged with ensuring that this system appropriately addresses bird welfare.
Cargill understands live animal transportation can create stress, so we work to lower the stress level for animals being transported to our processing facilities, including minimizing transportation times. This applies to all species across all of our businesses.
Our global commitment is to limit transportation times to a maximum of 8 hours for all live animals. We have made significant progress toward achieving this target and are researching solutions to address instances where it is not yet possible. Additionally, all of our global businesses abide by local animal transportation regulations and, in regions of the world where transportation regulations may not exist, we 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. Cargill suppliers of animal protein products also are expected to abide by their country’s livestock transportation regulations and transit time requirements for animals being processed.
Examples of our work to drive industry improvements in this area include:
- Cargill has donated US$150,000 for Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) training for drivers, which included the development of training manuals. All drivers delivering cattle to our U.S. slaughter plants are BQAT-certified.
- Cargill supported National Farm Animal Care Council’s work to update the Canadian National Transportation Code of Practice to better address welfare issues that concern Canadians regarding the transportation of poultry and livestock.