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Karen Christensen, Sr. Dir. Of Animal Wellbeing, Tyson Foods
Throughout the course of the pandemic, we've seen a myriad of changes in how the world perceives food and how it ends up on our dinner-plates. The sudden change has affected our daily lives, requiring people to become reacquainted with their kitchens and preparing meals for their families. With that shift, many consumers have become more interested in where their food comes from and even how the animals were raised – providing the quality, nutritious protein we enjoy. We’re many generations removed from the days when a significant percentage of the population was involved with the production of our food. Today, less than 2% of the population is engaged in any kind of agricultural production, which means the remaining percentage might not be fully aware of the farm-to-table process.
At Tyson Foods, our mission is to be the leader in animal welfare through compassionate care based on sound science.
At Tyson Foods, our mission is to be the leader in animal welfare through compassionate care based on sound science
Although the care of the animals has always been a top priority at Tyson, our program was given the name of “FarmCheck” in 2012. FarmCheck© has four pillars that keep us focused on the important areas of animal care.
• The first is “people”. We have a large, dedicated, and well-trained team that focus daily on our mission.
• FarmCheck© provides regular site visits and 3rd party audits to confirm that farmers that work within our supply chain are adhering to our standards.
• We have an internationally acclaimed advisory panel that helps push us to continuous improvement in welfare but also help us understand and address critical areas like ethical issues, consumer interests, and emerging issues that may affect our business.
• Research and innovation are important factors that help drive continuous progress in animal welfare.
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Tyson Foods Broiler Welfare Research Farm – a unique facility built exclusively to study how we can improve welfare and share those learnings with the broiler farmers that grow birds for us.
We follow a very unique approach at the farm that involves preference testing. This approach includes the chickens in the questions and the answers and really allows us to examine behaviors to see what the chickens really want and need. One of the many research projects we’re working on includes understanding the kind of light that broilers prefer in their houses. We are learning about how they “see” the world differently than humans and asking them to let us know when we get it right. They have a lot to say if you just listen to them! In addition to preference testing, we’re using a similar strategy to “ask” them about other things we can do to enhance their environment and make it as comfortable as possible.
Another exciting thing happening in animal welfare is the development of new technologies that can predict problems before farmers can detect it. Tyson is currently collaborating on a number of projects from around the world to use cameras and microphones to learn more about how we can take better care of the animals.
It's important to understand the impact of animal welfare and the good we can do if we listen to the animals and provide compassionate care for them. With new technology and innovation capabilities, I’m excited for the future of animal welfare and the continuous improvement we’ll see throughout the industry.