Overview of Turkey Operations
Jennie-O Turkey Store, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods, is one of the world’s leading processors and marketers of turkey products. This vertically integrated enterprise consists of 11 breeder farms, three hatcheries, more than 100 commercial growing farms, eight feed mills and seven processing plants across Minnesota and Wisconsin.
To feed 34 million turkeys, last year our feed mills purchased more than 30 million bushels of corn from local growers and more than 251,000 tons of soybean meal from local processors to make more than 1.55 million tons of feed. Our presence has a significant impact on the local agricultural economy, and we are honored to support these local communities.
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Jennie-O Turkey Store has established clear, simple handling guidelines and closely monitors adherence to those guidelines to ensure standards are being upheld during every step during the raising, transportation and processing of turkeys. Our animal handling practices are consistent with policies set forth by the National Turkey Federation and the American Veterinary Medical Association. These policies include information about proper loading, unloading and processing techniques.
As industry leaders, we adhere to these guidelines in order to raise, transport and process our animals in a humane manner with minimal stress. We are proud of our history of establishing handling procedures that have been adopted by national trade organizations and pioneering the use of anesthetizing techniques for turkeys prior to processing.
Turkey Training and Audits
Prior to working with turkeys at our farm locations and processing facilities, new employees undergo a thorough training program to familiarize themselves with techniques related to their respective jobs. Our training for all employees is ongoing and includes monthly, quarterly and annual audits to evaluate best practice guidelines executed by employees. These audits gauge employee compliance with handling procedures and care guidelines for factors such as air and water quality and access to food.
The results of internal and third-party audits conducted at our hatcheries, grower farms and processing plants consistently score in the highest category, using the National Turkey Federation animal welfare guidelines and the Global Food Safety Initiative guidelines for food safety as the audit criteria. We use the results from these audits to continuously improve our processes. In fiscal year 2011, 370 internal audits were conducted in the Jennie-O Turkey Store live production area.
In our processing facilities, we perform daily internal audits conducted by quality assurance and operations personnel to maintain the highest animal care practices. In fiscal year 2011, four external audits were performed by outside auditors in our processing facilities. Internally, we participated in eight formal audits and 148 audits, conducted by company management, at our processing facilities on an unannounced, random basis.
We require a two-step process to certify all independent and contract suppliers of turkeys to Jennie-O Turkey Store in the area of animal care. “Conditional certification” is obtained after the independent/contract producer completes company-provided training in animal handling. “Final certification” is obtained after personnel in the turkey procurement area complete an on-site inspection and an audit of the independent/contract producer’s operation. Recertification is required every three years.
Harvesting of Turkeys
The humane harvesting of animals is an ongoing topic of discussion within the meat industry, and we aim to have our processing methods remain best-in-class based on scientific findings. At Jennie-O Turkey Store, we use controlled atmosphere stunning and electrical stunning methods, both of which are accepted methods of humanely anesthetizing turkeys prior to processing. To date, scientific data has not shown a significant difference between the two methods; however, we continue to keep current with the latest scientific research to ensure we are using best practices for our animals.
Animal Welfare Review Board
Jennie-O Turkey Store formed the Animal Welfare Review Board in 2010 to be more proactive in setting the highest standards for responsible animal care. The board ensures accountability and ongoing leadership to uphold these standards. The board’s membership is comprised of key leaders (including several company vice presidents and directors) from various disciplines in the organization (plant operations, live production, quality assurance, technical services and human resources). The board reviews reported incidences and animal care processes, outlines the plan for corrective action, and develops and implements preventative measures to ensure that high standards for animal care are maintained at Jennie-O Turkey Store.