U.S. Turkey Business
Cargill is a major processor of turkeys in the U.S., with 600 independent family farms supplying turkeys to our four processing plants located in Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia. We educate and certify our contract growers on proper bird handling.
Handling on the farm
Our turkey business incorporates programs developed by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) trained employees and veterinarians. All Cargill employees, contractors and farmers working with live birds are trained on animal handling before they ever handle a bird. We also train these groups on bird welfare in emergency situations. In the U.S., we employ third-party remote video auditing (RVA) for animal welfare purposes, allowing us to audit more than 47,000 turkeys weekly.
For all our turkey production, we do not use antibiotics for growth promotion. We strive for the reduction and avoidance of antibiotics for prophylactic use and invest in a comprehensive animal health program that focuses on minimizing the risk of disease, which vastly reduces the need for prophylactic use. We ensure animal welfare and a safe food supply of turkey through the prudent and judicious use of antibiotics when necessary for disease control under the direction and supervision of veterinarians.
Handling at processing
We have many PAACO-certified staff in our turkey business who, with the input of our veterinarians and external advisory committee, develop our handling program. All Cargill employees who handle birds are trained on how to recognize and mitigate bird stress and employ proper low-stress animal handling through our welfare program.
Loading crews are trained on how to properly move and load birds to minimize stress. Our guidelines are based on the National Turkey Federation’s guidelines with oversight from our welfare committee made up of internal and external welfare experts.
We have programs and equipment in place to decrease environmental stress from the wide range of ambient temperatures birds may experience. Trailers are equipped to keep birds warmer during cooler weather, and during hot weather we have programs to mitigate heat stress. In the rare event of a transportation emergency, Cargill employees are trained for response and have preassembled kits and special incident response trailers.
Industry standards and guidelines
Our turkey business created a turkey welfare advisory committee to provide oversight and guidance on animal welfare. The committee includes both internal Cargill veterinarians and animal welfare experts, in addition to industry and academic subject matter experts.
The turkey welfare advisory committee monitors program requirements and the business’s audit findings, and provides guidance related to future program changes that are founded upon new, science-based technologies and/or customer requirements.
- All Cargill-owned birds are raised, processed and handled according to National Turkey Federation guidelines.
- All our marketing claims are USDA Process Verified.
- Loading crews for transporting birds to our processing facilities are trained to properly load and move them, minimizing stress. This training is based on National Turkey Federation guidelines.
Although the U.S. doesn’t have turkey welfare regulations, we abide by best practices developed by industry and academic experts as a baseline for our welfare programs.