Responses to the 2020 BBFAW Survey
The following material is a response to the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) 2020 survey. It is indexed by topic, with the relevant questions marked next to each section.
For a general overview of animal welfare at Cargill, visit this section of our website.
Business relevance (Q1)
Animal welfare is a crucial business priority for Cargill’s global businesses. As we deliver protein 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. Our programs 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 supplier partners who raise animals or produce animal protein ingredients for us to do the same.
In different countries, we raise animals in our own operations, buy them from farmers and slaughter them, buy animal protein ingredients from others, or a combination of these. This chart illustrates major activities in our supply chains and operations by species and country:
Global figures for individual species in the responses on this page include totals for all these countries, and should be considered comprehensive for our entire company, unless otherwise noted. In line with BBFAW guidance, we have excluded data from joint ventures for which we do not have a controlling interest or responsibility for animal welfare. Additionally, some of our businesses buy small amounts of animal protein ingredients locally that we have not included in the graphic above. We have averaged data for these purchases into our global responses below, although they represent a very small percentage of our global protein purchases on a volume basis and so have a minimal impact on our data.
Read more about the importance of animal welfare to our business here.
Our commitment (Q2, Q3)
Our Global Commitment Statement defines the high expectations we have for ourselves as we handle animals. It applies across all of our geographies where we do business and to all of the species we process. We have the same expectations of our suppliers and for the animals or protein products they provide to us.
Our commitment is grounded in the Five Freedoms, which were developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and are widely supported by animal welfare organizations:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
Read more about our commitments and actions regarding the Five Freedoms here.
We have taken and will continue to take extensive actions to support our global animal welfare commitments. These actions and species-specific commitments can be found throughout this page, as well as on our online overview of our animal welfare practices.
Animal housing (Q4, Q20, Q28, Q29, Q30, Q31)
We understand that animal housing is an important issue. 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 well-being 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.
Percentage of animals in our global operations and supply chains free from close confinement
(as of May 31, 2020)
|Species||Global percentage||Additional notes|
|Beef cattle||77.97%||Do not live in barns|
|Dairy cattle (meat)||77.13%||Do not live in barns|
|Broilers||99%||Group-housed (cage free)|
|51.39%||Low stocking density (30kg/m2 or less)|
|Turkeys||100%||Indoor group-housed (cage free)|
|Laying hens||31.6%||Indoor group-housed (cage free); this figure is as of September 1, 2020|
|Pork (ingredients)||0%||We do not raise or slaughter hogs, and only buy a limited amount of pork ingredients on the open market.|
|Milk (ingredients)||95%||Free from tethering|
As customers focus on a transition to cage-free eggs, we have been a proactive partner in helping them make that change by working with our suppliers, academics and other subject matter experts to ensure those transitions are implemented effectively.
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 our egg suppliers to pioneer efforts that will help our customers grow their business now and in the future. 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 from our customers, including construction of new housing and re-modeling of existing housing.
In Brazil, we source a small amount of eggs for our mayonnaise brands and have committed to transitioning 100% of our eggs for this mayonnaise to cage-free by 2025. We are part of a working group of companies in Brazil designing a transition plan with numerous egg suppliers to ensure an adequate supply of cage-free eggs to the market.
Our broiler poultry operations understand the importance of proper animal welfare and embrace a commitment to uphold the highest standards. Birds and meat for our supply chain are sourced from leading poultry companies, with live birds cared for by experienced personnel throughout our global supply chains and in compliance with all applicable local regulations. Our suppliers operate with comprehensive agricultural assurance schemes, most of which are externally audited by independent third-party organizations.
Our broilers 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.
Until we sold our pork business in October 2015, Cargill was one of the largest pork producers in the U.S. By early 2015, we had moved to 100% group housing for our sows that produce hogs for pork. Today, Cargill is a limited buyer of pork ingredients. We are working with our customers and pork suppliers to plan for market demand for pork that originates from group housing.
Cargill does not process milk but is a limited buyer of milk products as ingredients. The cows that produce this milk are housed in accordance with respective nations’ standards of practice.
Enrichments Q5, Q21
Percentage of animals in our global operations and supply chains provided with species-specific enrichments
(as of May 31, 2020)
|Species||Global percentage||Additional notes|
|Beef cattle||0%||Cattle spend almost their entire lives outdoors. We do not raise cattle, and they are at our facilities for only a few hours prior to slaughter.|
|Dairy cattle (meat)||0%|
|Broilers||46.64%||Some common types of enrichments are strawbales, pecking objects, perches and natural light.|
|Turkeys||83%||These turkeys are housed in barns that allow natural sunlight.|
|Laying hens||31.6%||All our cage-free eggs originate from systems that provide enrichments. See details below.|
|Milk (ingredients)||15%||Common types of enrichments are brushes.|
We ensure that all the animals under our care are raised in a setting that allows 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, our supplier producers are continually evaluating other enrichments including alfalfa bales, pecking stones, mineral blocks, paracord string and limestone baths. Our joint goal is continuous improvement.
Genetic engineering, cloning and breeding (Q6, Q35)
Cargill does not accept from our suppliers any animals or animal protein products that are a direct result of cloning or genetic engineering. This is our position for all species and all geographies, regardless of whether that technology is currently commercialized in a given species or not.
Percentage of broilers in our global operations and supply chains that come from strains with a slower growth potential
(as of May 31, 2020)
Growth promotion and antibiotics (Q7, Q8)
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, affordable food. While we support lowering antibiotic use, we believe the judicious therapeutic use of animal antibiotics helps maintain the safety of world food supplies. This prevents sick animals from entering the food supply and ensures animals do not unnecessarily suffer from disease. Medicines are used only when necessary and under the control of authorized veterinary personnel in accordance with local regulations.
We promote transparency in antibiotic use and work with stakeholders to develop metrics to measure this use. We will share our progress toward fulfilling our antibiotic reduction commitments with the public.
Cargill supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Guidance for Industry 213, which proposes judicious 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.
For all our turkey production, we do not use antibiotics for growth promotion and antibiotics are rarely used in the manner BBFAW defines as prophylactic use. 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.
Similarly, for broiler production, we are working to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or in the absence of clinical disease. We have already eliminated antibiotics for growth promotion in North America, Europe and Asia, and are doing so in Latin America. The use of antibiotics, when needed, is carried out under the direction and supervision of veterinarians.
Antibiotics are not used for growth promotion, prophylactic use or disease prevention in our U.S. egg supply chain. Because of the effectiveness of current methods of disease control on farms, only a small percentage of egg-laying flocks ever receive any antibiotics at all. If hens become ill and antibiotics are needed, they are used therapeutically under the supervision of a veterinarian and in line with U.S. FDA guidance.
Some examples of our recent progress to reduce antibiotics in our operations and supply chains include:
- For global broiler production, we have worked diligently during the past four years 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 more than 70% during that time period.
- This year, Cargill’s poultry business in China launched a line of antibiotic-free chicken products, serving consumers preferring meat from chickens that have never been treated with antibiotics.
- In 2018, Cargill donated $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.
- 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. We also recently discontinued the use of routine antibiotics in our hatcheries, as well.
- 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. Turkeys continue to receive antibiotics for control and treatment of disease. Cargill’s turkey products covered by this decision were made available in the marketplace at the start of 2017. Correspondingly, Cargill expanded our antibiotic-free turkey products through the creation of our Honest Turkey™ product line. These products come from turkeys that have never been treated with antibiotics.
- 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.
- 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.
Physical alterations (Q9, Q22, Q32, Q33, Q34)
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.
Percentage of animals in our global operations and supply chains that are free from physical alterations
(as of May 31, 2020)
|Species||Global percentage||Additional notes|
|Beef cattle||37.97%||Cargill does not alter any cattle in our care. This percentage also indicates beef cattle that were not subject to castration, tail docking or dehorning prior to arriving at our facilities.|
|Dairy cattle (meat)||84.29%||Cargill does not alter any cattle in our care. This percentage also indicates dairy cattle that were not subject to tail docking or dehorning prior to arriving at our facilities.|
|Broilers||99.39%||The very small percentage of altered birds are breeders who receive beak or toe treatments to prevent them from harming themselves or other birds.|
|Turkeys||0%||All turkeys in our supply chains receive beak and toe treatments to prevent them from harming themselves or other birds. No turkeys in our supply chains are desnooded.|
|Laying hens||Less than 5%||Beak trimming or treatment is done by trained personnel to prevent pecking and cannibalism among birds and must adhere to the requirements of the respective certifying body.|
|Pork (ingredients)||Less than 25%||This refers to pigs that are free from tail docking.|
|Milk (ingredients)||94%||This refers to dairy cattle that were not subject to tail docking or dehorning.|
Stunning (Q10, Q23, Q24, Q36)
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.
Percentage of animals in our global operations and supply chains that are subject to pre-slaughter stunning
(as of May 31, 2020)
|Beef and dairy cattle||100%|
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 includes 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.
Transportation (Q11, Q25, Q38)
Cargill understands live animal transportation can create stress. We do everything possible 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. As the data shows, 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 beef, pork, poultry and dairy products also are expected to abide by their country’s livestock transportation regulations and transit time requirements for animals being processed.
Percentage of animals in our global operations and supply chains that are transported within 8 hours or less at a time
(as of May 31, 2020)
|Beef cattle||More than 90%|
|Dairy cattle (meat)||More than 90%|
|Turkeys||More than 95%|
|Laying hens||More than 95%|
|Pork (ingredients)||More than 90%|
|Milk (ingredients)||More than 90%|
Examples of our work to drive industry improvements in this area include:
- Cargill has donated $150,000 for Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) training for drivers. All drivers delivering cattle to our U.S. slaughter plants are BQAT-certified.
- Cargill supports 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.
- China has begun 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, slaughtering, food processing and food services to develop the standards. Cargill is offering our expertise to the development of these standards – part of which includes best practices for the humane transportation of animals.
Company responsibilities and processes (Q12, Q15)
We insist that animals be treated with dignity and respect. To ensure this, employees in all our businesses are trained in the proper animal handling practices relevant to their work. As we state in our global commitment, if any instance of animal mistreatment or abuse is discovered in our operations, we immediately employ corrective actions that can include termination of employment or legal action.
We take the same approach with our suppliers. Our Supplier Code of Conduct, which all suppliers globally are required to follow as part of their contracts, includes reference online to our policies on animal welfare. If animal mistreatment or abuse is discovered in a supplier’s operations, we investigate immediately and take actions that can include terminating contracts or legal action.
Cargill has a corporate animal welfare committee comprising leaders for each of our protein species, as well as veterinarians and other experts with advanced degrees in animal welfare science, animal husbandry and related disciplines. This committee consults with independent academics at leading universities and other external experts to bring the latest best practices and research into our operations.
The committee oversees the company’s implementation of farm animal welfare policy, from day-to-day management of farm animal welfare throughout our operations and supply chains, to continuous improvement of overarching policies. They are accountable for this oversight to Cargill’s Executive Team, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Cargill has the resources, expertise and tools to live up to our commitments.
Regional and local teams maintain day-to-day responsibility for animal welfare. These include members of our Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory (FSQR), operations and supply chain functions. Duties vary by species, but generally our FSQR teams either conduct or review animal welfare and food safety audits, work with plants and suppliers on corrective actions and continuous improvement, and ensure all laws and regulations are followed. Operations teams ensure processes and procedures are followed and that front-line employees are trained on proper animal handling. Supply chain teams are responsible for communicating our policies and expectations to our suppliers and producer partners, and for ensuring all our requirements are met. In regions or operations where Cargill owns animals, technical teams monitor and provide assistance on animal husbandry.
Objectives, targets and outcomes (Q13, Q14, Q26, Q27)
Objectives and targets are where our policy commitments are translated into substantive action. They help us determine how resources and responsibilities are best assigned to achieve our overarching goals.
Cargill’s corporate animal welfare team has a system in place for tracking and monitoring our progress and performance. Animals we process are raised to standards that promote and protect animal welfare. Our overarching animal welfare policy is based on The Five Freedoms. Our internal audits, as well as many third-party audits, are conducted in our supply chain based on those Five Freedoms. This system ensures that we perform in accordance with our policy commitments, objectives and targets, primarily through our internal and external third-party audits.
As part of our regular internal, third-party and customer audits, Cargill records welfare outcome measures. These audits are conducted for all species and across all geographies. Although we do not publicly disclose all of our audit results, we are stringent about maintaining a high level of performance with regards to animal welfare, ensuring that we and our suppliers meet or exceed audit requirements.
We also have a long-term animal welfare strategy that establishes goals, activities and deliverables within specified timeframes.
|2018||2019||2020 (through Aug. 1)|
|As of May 31, 2020|
|Transported in eight hours or less||More than 90%|
|2018||2019||2020 (through Aug. 1)|
|Meets outcomes of composite welfare index from the National Turkey Federation||99.22%||99.75%||100%|
|As of May 31, 2020|
|Transported in eight hours or less||More than 95%|
|As of May 31, 2020|
|Stocking density of less than 30 kg/m2||51.39%|
|Transported in eight hours or less||99.18%|
|As of July 2019||As of September 1, 2020|
|Cage-free||15% to 20%||31.6%|
|Transported in eight hours or less||More than 95%|
Commentary on our recent trends and performance in overall welfare outcomes
- Preventing slips and falls for cattle requires good animal mobility, good stockmanship, proper non-slip flooring and strong animal handling training for staff so they use techniques that stress the animals as little as possible. We have worked hard to make sure that all of these conditions are in place at our facility, to minimize the risks of slips and falls, and we are proud of the audit numbers we have achieved as a result.
- In our U.S. egg operations, 100% of the cage-free eggs we purchase are certified by either American Humane Association (American Humane certified), Humane Farm Animal Care (Certified Humane) or United Egg Producers. The audit sets objectives and target requirements in several areas, including hen housing, space, air quality, feed and water, biosecurity, bird movement, waste mitigation, and care. As our customers focus on a transition to cage-free eggs, we have been a proactive partner in helping them make that change by working with our suppliers, academics and other subject matter experts to ensure those transitions are implemented effectively.
- While Cargill does not own any egg-laying hens, we require our egg suppliers to have a written biosecurity plan in place. We work with them to ensure they are employing the best animal handling practices, biosecurity and disease control measures to prevent the spread of avian influenza and other diseases that may pose a health risk to animals or people. Cargill’s U.S. egg operation convenes a yearly summit with our key egg suppliers to share best practices on biosecurity, cage-free production and other animal welfare topics.
- All Cargill broiler slaughter facilities run daily internal bird welfare audits. This audit is a comprehensive scorecard that records welfare outcomes (e.g., footpad dermatitis, hockburns, broken wings). This is being done in addition to annual third-party audits as well as animal welfare audits for customers and government agencies. We believe this is an important step toward monitoring welfare outcomes and supports our commitment to demonstrating positive trends in performance measures.
- 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 was the first large protein producer in the industry to implement third-party RVA systems in all of our North American slaughter facilities, which includes beef, turkey and broilers. This tool helps us meet and exceed our animal welfare accountability goals, and ensure we maintain high standards of animal handling and care at our facilities.
- In our North American beef operations, we implemented a new euthanasia procedure at our slaughter facilities in 2015. Accepted by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the procedure’s simplicity is its appeal, and its efficiency and effectiveness lead to a fast and safe result, which improves animal welfare and employee safety.
- All of the turkeys we process are certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Process Verified Program. We submit our requirements for raising turkeys that exceed all current government and industry standards to USDA, which then acts as a third-party verification system by auditing and validating that those requirements are met. This program means that our turkey products are verified as coming from turkeys raised responsibly by independent farmers trained on animal handling practices, without growth promoting antibiotics (antibiotics are used only when needed for treatment or prevention of illness).
Supply chain management (Q16)
Many of the business challenges and opportunities associated with farm animal welfare relate to companies’ supply chains. Companies have the ability to influence their suppliers’ performance both formally (e.g., through contracts and auditing processes) and informally (e.g., through capacity building and education).
Our Supplier Code of Conduct, which all suppliers globally are required to follow as part of their contracts, includes reference online to our policies on animal welfare. Many of our supplier contracts also contain specific provisions related to animal welfare. If animal mistreatment or abuse is discovered in any supplier’s operations, we investigate immediately and take actions that can include terminating contracts or legal action.
Some of the efforts to drive progress in our supply chains include:
- We communicate our animal welfare policies to all employees and suppliers who handle farm animals in our supply chain. Cargill is held accountable for our animal welfare policies through internal and external third-party audits.
- We have an external advisory council for our turkey business, and our guidelines for our contract growers are based on the National Turkey Federation’s guidance, with oversight from our welfare committee made up of external and internal experts. We educate and certify all of our contract growers on how to properly handle their turkeys through a program developed in partnership with academic experts. Our turkey business also runs programs to educate employees, truck drivers and first responders on animal handling in the case of emergencies.
- In Canada, Cargill conducts CowSignals training programs for dairy farmers to help them analyze environmental and health factors that affect their cows’ comfort, milk production and longevity. Since 2013, groups of local farmers have participated in more than 175 sessions including insights about topics ranging from stall spacing and animal bedding to hoof trimming and nutrition.
- Our European poultry supply chain has achieved 100% accreditation under the Red Tractor, or equivalent, food assurance schemes for high standards of animal welfare, food safety and hygiene.
- Prior to selling our pork processing business in late 2015, we were the first in the industry to institute a policy of purchasing hogs in the U.S. only from farms that were certified under the National Pork Producers Council’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) program, which includes strong animal welfare standards.
- While we no longer own pork production or slaughtering operations, we do buy pork products in some of our businesses. When purchasing pork products, we encourage producers to follow PQA+, Transportation Quality Assurance (TQA) and Common Swine Industry Audit (CSIA) standards.
Farm assurance standards and programs provide frameworks for managing farm animals, including their health and welfare, provenance and the regulatory compliance of the systems being used. They also play an important role in promoting higher animal welfare standards and outcomes.
Cargill has supported and adopted many of these industry standards. Many of these are detailed throughout this page. To read more about all the standards we comply with, visit this section of our website.
Industry leadership and education (Q18, Q19)
Farm animal welfare is a collective issue for the food industry. Making progress and raising standards across the industry require individual companies to support research and development programs to improve farm animal welfare; to share their knowledge and expertise with their suppliers and with their industry peers; to play a supportive role in public policy debates around farm animal welfare; and to support industry and stakeholder initiatives directed at improving farm animal welfare.
Cargill funds and conducts research to improve animal well-being across all proteins, and we continually focus on research and applying the best science to all our efforts, using extensive tracking and monitoring tools and techniques.
Some recent examples of our leadership include:
- We welcomed renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin to our protein headquarters in Wichita, where she participated in discussions with company leaders and animal welfare staff, as well as our customers, on how we can continue to drive progress across the industry. Cargill has partnered with Dr. Grandin and her researchers at Colorado State University on numerous animal welfare projects for three decades. Today, that research includes different ways to improve cattle well-being.
- Although some of our research projects were slowed or paused by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, we continue to innovate new or upgraded tools such as captive bolt devices (to reduce the likelihood of ineffective stunning in cattle) and air prods (to replace electric cattle prods). We also engage with academic institutions and other partners to research animal handling techniques and practices. This year, our research on captive bolt stunning was published in an scientific journal. A full list of our most recently published research is available here.
- To help improve the nutrition, health and well-being of farm animals all around the world, we provide training to hundreds of thousands of farmers each year in sustainable agricultural practices, which can include topics like animal husbandry and health. For instance, we launched the Hatching Hope Global Initiative with Heifer International, which seeks to help small farmers – especially women – improve their livelihoods through poultry farming that incorporates sustainable practices. Worldwide, attendance at our farmer trainings was 860,000 in the past year. Since 2017, attendance at our trainings has totaled 3.2 million, with a goal of reaching 10 million by 2030.
- Our global animal nutrition and health business is a leading innovator in nutrition formulation, non-pharmaceutical additives and specialty ingredients, and farm management technology that all works together to improve the health and well-being of livestock, fish and shrimp. A network of global research facilities continuously innovates to improve the solutions available to farmers and ranchers to help ensure their animals are healthy, well-cared for and safe. Meanwhile, our Diamond V® brand of fermentation-based products works naturally to support animals’ immune systems and defend against health challenges. And our digital tools help farmers monitor their animals’ health, performance and environmental conditions, allowing farmers to make changes to improve their animals’ well-being.
- To drive progress in animal welfare, we pioneered a new system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and analyze broiler chicken vocalizations and understand the implications for their well-being. We are piloting and testing this system in our poultry operations in China. The system is designed to detect health issues before they are apparent to the human eye. This will help us take corrective actions earlier to stem potential health concerns within our flocks, so we can also reduce the need to use antibiotics. We are continuing to refine and advance these technologies in our Canadian poultry operations, as well.
- We are developing an AI-driven computer vision analytics system to assess walking ability and leg health, and are testing this tool at four facilities in our Canada broiler supply chain. The system aims to enable early detection of certain potential health and welfare issues in flocks, allowing farmers and technical support staff to address and mitigate issues quickly.
- Litter quality in housing facilities can strongly influence a broiler’s leg health. We are investigating how “green” technologies can keep litter in a drier, more friable state that positively impacts animal welfare. A team in our European poultry operations conducted an evaluation involving more than two dozen chicken houses in the U.K. and France to measure the impact of switching to renewable, indirect biomass heating sources outside the houses and the use of heat exchangers to recover energy. The team explored whether this technology linked with reverse flow ventilation systems—fans in the roof with side-wall air inlets—provided additional benefits. Results concluded that the chickens’ leg health improved. And analysis of energy usage confirmed that the renewable technologies reduced the carbon footprint of the chicken houses by approximately 30%.
- Cargill’s U.S. egg operation convenes a yearly summit with our key egg producer suppliers to share best practices on biosecurity, cage-free production and other animal welfare topics.
- Cargill is a founding member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs, and co-chairs the roundtable’s Framework Committee. The roundtable includes animal health and welfare as key indicators in its framework. The Framework will help consumers, customers and other stakeholders better understand the sustainability of egg, turkey and broiler products they are purchasing or considering.
- Likewise, Cargill is a founding member of the global and U.S. roundtables for sustainable beef and serves on the board of directors for each. These roundtables include animal welfare as one of five key principles in their frameworks. Cargill has been a member of the U.S. roundtable’s Indicator Working Group and served as the sector lead on the Engagement, Measurement and Progress Working Group. Currently, Cargill also serves on the Communications Council and the Global Goals Working Group.
- Additionally, Cargill is a founding member of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and serves on its council. Animal health and welfare is one of five key principles for the roundtable. Cargill has participated in the Indicator and Verification committee and currently serves on the Framework, Scientific and Communications and Marketing Committees. We are the first processor to use the roundtable’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework in our supply chain.
- Cargill was a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply and served on the coalition’s leadership, research and communications committees. Today, the coalition’s commercial-scale, scientific research is fundamental in helping producers and others understand the benefits and potential drawbacks of various housing types.
- In 2018, Cargill was honored as the recipient of Compassion in World Farming’s (CIWF) Good Chicken Production Award. This award recognizes Chinese producers that are making significant commitments to improving the welfare of broilers. Visit this site for more details about this award.
- In 2018, Cargill donated $150,000 to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to build a state-of-the-art facility to house research aimed at disease prevention. Today, the Cargill Poultry Research Center looks for new ways to address the most challenging disease issues, from vaccines and bird behavior to novel products.
- Our poultry operations in China were recognized in 2014 with China’s first animal welfare award by the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association, the China Association for the Promotion of International Agricultural Cooperation and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
We know that making progress and raising standards across the industry requires us to support and engage research and development programs to improve animal welfare. We share our knowledge and expertise, and we learn from our suppliers and our industry peers while also playing a supportive role in public policy debates on farm animal welfare. Our animal welfare team serves as members on a long list of boards, committees and organizations, so that we can broadly share our expertise. These organizations include:
Beef and dairy cattle
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) BQA Advisory Board, U.S., Member
- Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Feed Yard Assessment Committee, U.S., Member
- BQA Beef Transport Committee, U.S., Member
- Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) Technical Committee, Canada, Member
- Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Founding Member, Framework Committee Member, Scientific Committee Member,
- U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Founding Member, Board Member
- Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Founding Member, Board Member
- Red Meat Welfare Officer – Certification, University of Bristol (U.K.)
- North American Meat Institute (NAMI) Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, U.S., Member
- NAMI, U.S., Executive Board Member
- National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), Canada, Member
- Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, U.S., Foundation Auditor
- Safe Supply of Affordable Food Everywhere (SSAFE), International, Executive Committee Board Member and Treasurer
- China Meat Association, Member
- China Veterinarian Medical Association, Member
- International Poultry Welfare Alliance (IPWA), Founding Member
- International Poultry Council (IPC), Member
- U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs, Founding Member, Framework Committee Co-Chair
- U. S. Poultry & Egg Association, Board Member
- Canadian Poultry & Egg Processors Council, Member
- American Association of Avian Pathologists, Member
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Member
- National Turkey Federation Animal Welfare Advisory Group
- National Turkey Federation Board, Executive Board
- Chicken Farmers of Canada, Chicken Processors Alternate Representative
- FIA, France Federation of Poultry Industries, Member
- Institut Technique de l’Aviculture (French Poultry Technical Institute), Member
- China Animal Health and Food Safety Alliance (CAFA), Member
- China Broiler Alliance, Member
- ALA, Asociación Latinoamericana de Avicultura (Latin American Poultry Association), Member
- PROAVIH, Productores Avicolas de Honduras (Poultry Producers of Honduras), Member
- ANAPA, Asociación Nacional de Avicultores y Productores de Alimento – Nicaragua (Poultry and Feed Producers Association of Nicaragua), Member
- CANAVI, Cámara de Avicultores de Costa Rica (Poultry Producer Chamber of Costa Rica), Member
- FEDAVICAC, Federacion de Avicultores de Centro America y El Caribe (Poultry Producers Federation of Central America and the Caribbean), Member
- FENAVI, Federación Nacional de Avicultores de Colombia (Poultry Producers Federation of Colombia)
- United Egg Association Further Processors (UEA), U.S., Member
- Common Swine Industry Audit Development Committee, Member
In addition to serving on industry councils, our animal welfare team assists our customers by serving on their animal welfare advisory boards. We often provide technical expertise to customers that have questions or concerns about animal welfare issues, and we provide guidance to help them make informed animal welfare decisions that meet their business needs.
Also, based upon their experience, knowledge and expertise, members of our corporate animal welfare team are regularly invited to present to various organizations around the world. Cargill supports educational and informational opportunities like these whenever possible.
It’s important to share knowledge with consumers and increase transparency. Within many of our product lines, we communicate about the various voluntary standards that those products meet related to animal welfare.
For example, we partner with Meyers Natural Beef to communicate to consumers the brand’s high animal welfare standards. The Meyers Humanely Handled Program focuses on all aspects of the production and development process from traceability, cattle housing and transportation to environmental protection, disbudding and castration. Meyer’s Humanely Handled Program places the utmost emphasis on transparency and integrity, requiring third-party validation. The Program is also a USDA FSIS-approved third-party certified process, and all information is publicly listed on their website.
Additionally, animal welfare experts in our business continue to share their knowledge and perspective on topics in the industry with media and the public, as well as our work to improve animal welfare through innovations like artificial intelligence. They also speak at public conferences and other events where they can share best practices and engage with others in the industry to drive progress.
To help educate the public about agriculture, Cargill contributed to the building of a new demonstration farm site in Zeeland, Michigan. The Critter Barn is dedicated to teaching about farming and agriculture while inspiring people of all ages and all abilities through the miracles in nature found on the farm. We also have sponsored a year-round exhibit at the Nebraska State Fair titled Raising Nebraska that educates students and community groups on all aspects of agriculture, including raising and caring for animals.
Throughout our long history of supplying animal feed and protein to our customers, Cargill has shown industry leadership and a commitment to animal welfare. Our values focus on doing the right thing and reaching higher. We live these values as we demonstrate our ongoing commitment to treating animals with dignity and respect.