Responsible Animal Care
Producing the highest quality brand-name foods and meat products for consumers throughout the world starts with industry-leading animal care practices. For 121 years, Hormel Foods has focused on treating animals humanely, simply because it is the right thing to do.
We base our animal husbandry practices on the best scientific data available, new technologies and hands-on experience. The combination of these factors allows us to have a consistent, successful and measurable animal care program. Throughout this section of the report, we describe our commitment to responsible practices and policies related to animal care for hogs and turkeys. Hormel Foods believes that animal care and employee safety are non-competitive issues and we are always willing to share our best practices with our suppliers; however the company does not dictate what systems our independent producers use to operate on their farms.
Topics in this section include:
- Raising Our Animals
- Research/Innovation and Investment
- Industry Representation
- Industry Collaboration
Raising our Animals: Husbandry
At the core of our animal husbandry, or the practice of breeding and raising livestock at Hormel Foods, is the commitment to ensuring each hog and turkey is raised in a healthy environment and treated properly. It starts with training every person to reinforce the knowledge and skills needed when interacting with these animals. We expect training and proper animal management to be the foundation of each production facility’s culture and reinforced daily in the behavior exhibited by all employees. Our animals come from both company-owned farms and independent family farms. We hold our company management staff and the independent producers who supply animals to Hormel Foods to the highest standards. We also encourage employees at company farms and at independent family farms to hold each other accountable for proper animal care techniques.
We raise our hogs and turkeys in barns with climate-controlled environments in order to protect our animals from extreme weather conditions, predators, pests and disease. Within these facilities, 100 percent of the market hogs for Hormel Foods are housed in group pens, and 100 percent of the turkeys raised by Jennie-O Turkey Store are housed in open barns.
Licensed veterinarians ensure that medications are used judiciously throughout each phase of production. This responsible use of medications by our producers and veterinarians demonstrates our understanding of the importance of public health, a safe food supply, and the key role that animal well-being plays in it.
Licensed veterinarians prescribe only approved medications and dosage levels to properly treat, control and prevent illness in animals. All medications are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which evaluates any potential negative effects on human health and the environment and any impact on resistance. The FDA has the authority to ban any animal drug it feels poses a risk to human health.
We also follow industry programs’ guidelines for the responsible use of medications such as antibiotics. Hormel Foods endorses and complies with the National Pork Board’s “Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly” and the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s “Principles of Judicious Therapeutic Use of Antimicrobials.” These written procedures are among the many safeguards in place to ensure antibiotics are used to keep animals healthy without harming human health.
In addition, Hormel Foods requires all of our producers to sign the company’s “Quality Assurance Program Producer Certification” document. This document certifies that all hog producers that supply hogs to Hormel Foods and employees of these producers who work with hogs are certified in Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus. PQA Plus focuses on 10 good production practices (GPP), including a chapter about proper antibiotic use. An additional six GPPs cover topics about other medications.
At company-owned hog and turkey operations, we have six veterinarians who are responsible for overseeing the direction and management of all livestock health assurance programs. In addition, in our turkey operations, we also have two flock health specialists with veterinary science degrees. At our hog operations, the veterinarians are responsible for ensuring compliance with the guidelines provided by “Take Care. Use Antibiotics Responsibly” and that all employees who work with animals are PQA Plus certified.
In addition to the work we have done with our producers, we have increased monitoring for antibiotic residues at our production facilities as well. Beyond the random statistical sampling testing performed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), we have initiated our own testing program using the Charm KIS rapid test. This is the same test used by USDA personnel. Since 2008, we have conducted random residue testing on more than 6,700 hogs. These test results confirm our producers are using antibiotics responsibly and are following the GPPs identified in the PQA Plus program. With these steps, we are able to assure our customers the pork products produced from these animals meet the highest standards for food safety and quality.
Animal Care Research/Innovation and Investment
At Hormel Foods facilities, we continually evaluate, invest and develop new ways to improve our hog and turkey handling processes. We operate a state-of-the-art hog holding facility at our plant in Austin, MN. This structure was designed to maximize both the quality of our animal care and working conditions for our employees. Additionally, we have received a patent for our process related to improving turkey handling at Jennie-O Turkey Store.
At our processing plants, we invest in employee training to ensure workers are educated about the proper way to handle and move animals throughout our facilities. All personnel involved in receiving hogs and turkeys at our processing facilities are routinely trained to guarantee proper and humane handling of all animals. We also require these employees to review and agree to follow a personal pledge of conduct on a regular basis, either annually or twice a year. This document outlines principles for animal care and handling.
We conduct routine audits at our facilities by our trained, internal auditors and third-party auditors. We use information from each audit to continuously improve our animal handling procedures.
Documentation is an essential element of our training and auditing procedures. Within our records, we keep a copy of each audit report and a file for each employee that outlines his or her training and recertification qualifications.
Industry representation in national and local organizations helps Hormel Foods share ideas and best practices within the food industry regarding animal care and handling and humane processing. We are proud to have a representative serving as a member, an officer or a director of the board of a wide array of industry organizations, which include:
- Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska
- American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians
- American Association of Poultry Pathologists
- American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV)
- AASV Swine Welfare Committee
- American College of Poultry Veterinarians
- American Meat Institute
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Animal Agriculture Alliance
- Arizona Department of Agriculture Animal Services Division Advisory Council
- Arizona Governor’s Council – Agriculture Best Management Practices Committee
- Arizona Pork Council President/Board of Directors
- Association of Veterinarians in Turkey Production
- California Pork Producers Association President/Board of Directors
- Colorado Pork Producers Association Board of Directors
- Global Food Safety Initiative
- Global Social Compliance Program
- Grocery Manufacturers Association
- Institute of Food Technologists
- Midwest Food Processors Board of Directors
- Midwest Poultry Research Committee
- Minnesota Agri-Growth Council Board of Directors
- Minnesota Poultry Federation
- Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Board of Directors
- National Grain and Feed Association
- National Meat Association Board of Directors
- National Pork Board
- National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)
- NPPC Animal Health and Food Security Policy Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Board of Directors
- National Turkey Federation’s Executive Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Health and Welfare Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Issues Management Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Live Production Committee
- National Turkey Federation’s Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee
- Northwest Feed Manufacturers Association
- Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization
- State of Wisconsin Livestock Facility Siting Review Board
- Texas Tech International Center for Food Industry Excellence Board of Directors
- United States Animal Health Association
- University of Wisconsin Meat Science Advisory Board
- University of Wisconsin Poultry Science Advisory Committee
- Wisconsin Agriculture Coalition
- Wyoming Pork Producers Association President/Board of Directors
Within the hog and turkey industries, Hormel Foods is known as a leader in developing and implementing best-practice animal care and handling procedures. Treating animals humanely is simply the right thing to do, and we demonstrate our commitment to this principle by our openness in sharing our best practices and state-of-the-art facility designs with other companies and individuals involved in the industry. We do this by hosting representatives at in-person tours of facilities and through industry presentations and industry collaboration.
As an example, we support and participate in the Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization (PAACO) by inviting trainers and trainees to see our hog facilities and turkey facilities first-hand as part of the real-world training component of the program. Six members of the Jennie-O Turkey Store team and seven members of Hormel Foods teams are PAACO-certified auditors, and one Hormel Foods employee is a certified instructor for the program. To support continuing research within the turkey industry, Jennie-O Turkey Store provides support to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council and the National Turkey Federation.
Read more about our commitment to animal care, including specific practices related to: