AS part of an 18-month process, the nation’s largest turkey producer announced changes to its animal care and well-being program Sept. 17. Butterball said that it was “striving to set industry standards” for the nation’s turkey producers, and had taken steps to renew and “aggressively strengthen” its commitment to ensuring the safety and care of its animals.
As part of its animal welfare program, Butterball said it had focused its efforts across four key areas:
1. Animal Care and Well-Being Advisory Council
Butterball created a new, independent council of animal and poultry experts to help address important animal care, well-being and food safety issues today and in the future.
2. Enriched Employee Training
As the welfare of its animals is in the hands of its employees, Butterball has increased and enriched its training program to ensure all employees are up-to-speed on company animal welfare standards, including its zero-tolerance policy.
3. Independent American Humane Association (AHA) Certification
This is the nation’s first independent, third-party humane certification program for farm animals. Through rigorous inspections and examinations, the AHA audits and certifies that Butterball meets or exceeds its Humane Certification standards.
4. Continuous Improvement of Operational Processes
Butterball is already putting the advice of the AHA and the advisory council of experts to use by evaluating on-farm and operational processes as a way to ensure the best animal care and handling procedures.
Butterball was the target of an undercover video filmed by animal rights group Mercy For Animals last November. The video was shot in October a hidden camera by an “investigator” for the group who had obtained employment working at several farms in North Carolina.
Prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence to file charges in the case, though a similar case in January 2012 led to the firing of several workers who later pled guilty to animal cruelty charges. Butterball said animal health and welfare remains its “number-one priority” and has stated that it has “zero tolerance” for mistreatment of turkeys on its farms.