Overview of Hog Operations
Hormel Foods sources hogs from more than 690 independent family farmers across the Midwest and four company-owned operations in Arizona, California, Colorado and Wyoming.
In 2011, we continued implementing quality management systems (QMS) at all company-owned hog production sites. On independent family farms that supplied hogs to Hormel Foods, we continued to require certification in the National Pork Board’s PQA Plus program. Read more in the Pork Procurement and Processing section below.
From birth, all designated market hogs are housed in a group pen setting. The breeding sows at our company-owned farms in Arizona have transitioned to group sow housing. We will also be making the transition at our farms in Colorado before 2018. With nearly 75 percent of our company-owned sows moving to group sow housing at our farms in Arizona and Colorado, for the purposes of consistent animal handling practices, employee training, personnel transfer and reporting processes, we will also begin the transition to group sow housing at our company-owned farms in Wyoming before 2018. By including our Wyoming farms with our operations in Arizona and Colorado, all Hormel Foods-owned farms will be 100 percent group sow housing before 2018. Hormel Foods believes that animal care and employee safety are noncompetitive issues and we are 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.
During this process, we continue to dialog with internal and external subject matter experts, including veterinarians, to make sure we are using the best practices in the industry.
Pork Procurement and Processing
Each year, the three Hormel Foods pork processing operations provide the company with raw materials by processing approximately 9.4 million hogs. These facilities are Farmer John (Vernon, CA), the Hormel Foods Fremont (NE) Plant and Quality Pork Processors Inc. in Austin, MN, which is a third-party contractor. The raw materials are then distributed to locations across the United States where they are used to produce meat and food products.
Hormel Foods production plant locations span the United States and include: Stockton, CA; Tucker, GA; Algona, Knoxville and Osceola, IA; Aurora and Rochelle, IL; Wichita, KS; Austin, Browerville and Long Prairie, MN; Fremont, NE; and Beloit, WI.
For the Hormel Foods Austin (MN) Plant and Fremont (NE) Plant, we purchase hogs from local independent Midwest producers. These hogs are purchased using a Hormel Foods lean pork value table. We pay a premium for properly sorted, consistent, lean hogs that meet the stringent requirements of Hormel Foods. This means that hogs purchased by Hormel Foods are healthy, top-quality animals that have been properly managed and treated well.
To uphold the requirements for animal care at Hormel Foods, we purchase the majority of our hogs via contractual agreements. Per the contract, each hog producer agrees to comply with local, state and federal laws and qualifications detailed in the Hormel Foods Quality Assurance Program, which includes an animal care component. In addition to producers who supply hogs to Hormel Foods, we also require all employees who work with hogs at our three company-owned hog operations to follow these guidelines. Our animal care practices include:
- All producers who supply hogs to Hormel Foods, and the employees of those producers, must be certified in the National Pork Board’s PQA Plus program. To achieve certification, producers must attend an educational and training session taught by a PQA Plus advisor – a veterinarian, extension personnel or an adult agricultural educator. The class content focuses on food safety, animal well-being, herd health and medication decision-making, administration and records management.
- All sites where a producer raises hogs supplied to Hormel Foods must achieve Site Status as defined by the PQA Plus program. This is attained through an on-farm assessment that evaluates care and well-being principles. Once PQA Plus Site Status is achieved, the site becomes eligible for a random third-party audit. This statistically valid sample of audits validates the PQA Plus program.
- All producers, employees of producers and individuals who transport hogs to the company must have Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) certification. This program was originally developed by Hormel Foods before being adopted as the industry standard. The training materials cover the responsible way to treat and handle animals during loading, transportation and delivery. Handlers are taught to recognize a hog’s flight zones and points of balance to aid in hog movement. Achieving TQA certification requires attending an educational and training session and scoring a 90 percent or better on a written exam.
- All employees on our company-owned hog operations are required to comply with qualifications outlined in our quality management system, which includes standard operating procedures, signing a Personal Pledge of Proper Conduct and certifications in Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transport Quality Assurance. An employee cannot be promoted until he or she has undergone appropriate training for the new position and his or her manager has signed off on the employee’s ability to work with animals in this new capacity.
- Routine audits are conducted at our facilities, and we hire third-party auditors to gather information to continuously improve our animal care procedures.
- Employees have a confidential hotline to anonymously report any animal care procedure that does not meet our standards.
In fiscal year 2011, Hormel Foods received no incidents of noncompliance with laws and regulations and voluntary standards related to transportation, handling and slaughtering practices.
Through our annual Spirit of Excellence Awards, we recognize hog producers that exemplify the commitment to quality at Hormel Foods. These awards honor suppliers that consistently meet the company’s stringent requirements. One independent hog producer received this award in fiscal year 2011.
Animal Care Management
Our systematic approach for monitoring animal care was further enhanced in 2009 with creation of the animal welfare and handling manager position, whose sole responsibility is to enforce our stringent standards for animal care of all domestic production sites. There are weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings and conference calls to discuss relevant topics.