At the Iowa and Minnesota Pork Congress Hormel met with producers who supply live hogs to their slaughter plants. At the meetings they rolled out their new animal care guidelines that will become mandatory on September 1. For a majority of the producers the guidelines reinforce practices they have already implemented on-farm as a result of PQA+ and TQA enrollment. The important item of this program is that the implementation will be audited by an independent 3rd party to verify application of the guidelines. This audit will be in addition to the auditing process that National Pork Board has in place for their PQA+ SWAP assessments.
Hormel has been the subject of intense animal welfare (some would say animal rights) pressure with several of its suppliers being the subject of clandestine videos. Not all of the video footage showed animal cruelty and instead showed normal production practices that the industry deems in the best interest of the pig such as gestation crates. However, the vocal minority led by PETA, Mercy for Animals, HSUS, etc. has been very aggressive in their efforts to get slaughter plants to put in place minimum ‘standards’ of animal care.
Since the introduction of this program at the Minnesota Pork Congress I’ve heard producer comments both for and against Hormel’s effort to become more pro-active in animal welfare. Some have suggested Hormel is doing the right thing by addressing this issue head-on. Some have said they are pleased to see Hormel take leadership on this issue but would have preferred a more voluntary approach. Others have suggested Hormel is caving in to the welfare concerns – concerns often expressed by people and groups who have a long term agenda of complete cessation of meat consumption by humans.
I suspect the other major packers are watching with intense interest this effort by Hormel and suspect variations in packer welfare guidelines and auditing of application these guidelines will be forthcoming by several of them. Now is the time to start a discussion with your packer about this issue.