The American Meat Institute Foundation unveiled the 2012 Recommended Animal Care & Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide, now in its 15th year. Authored by leading animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, Ph.D., the audit guide has revolutionized the way the meat packing industry handles animals and measures animal welfare based upon simple core criteria.
The audit grew out of a report that Grandin did for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1996, in which she hypothesized that animal welfare did not have to be subjective, but rather could be evaluated objectively using numeric criteria. AMIF asked Dr. Grandin to author an audit based upon this concept, and the original version was released in 1997. By 1999, major restaurant chains began requiring audits as a condition of doing business and other customers soon followed.
Today, an estimated 95 percent of cattle, pigs and sheep are processed in plants that use the audit program. The guidelines and audit also are used globally and are a key component of major humane certification and labeling programs like American Humane Certified and Certified Humane.
In 2010, AMIF added a transportation audit to the plant audit program. The new guidelines refine the program based upon two years of field use. Modifications to the previous edition are detailed in the foreword to the 2012 edition. The 2012 Recommended Animal Care & Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide is available for free on Animalhandling.org.
During an address to the American Animal Science Association in July 2012, Grandin called the audit program “the most important accomplishment of my animal welfare career” because of its wide acceptance impact.
“In 1999 when the audit program really took off, I saw more improvements than I’d seen in the previous 25 years. Plants knew what they had to do. They had to hit clear numbers, much like speed limits. They had a clear goal and they learned to hit it,” she said. “The AMI guidelines have been a success because they are simple to use and they are objective. Assessing animal welfare in meat plants is no longer a matter of opinion, but rather is clear and objective.”
AMIF Chairman J. Patrick Boyle said the guidelines and audit program are a source of pride for the Institute. “Dr. Grandin’s unique insights into animal welfare and objective evaluation of animal welfare have helped this industry make dramatic progress in the way we handle the livestock we process for food,” Boyle said. “Our 20-year partnership with her has benefitted our industry immeasurably and the millions of livestock who whose welfare is enhanced by her approach.”
An overview of the new guidelines will be offered at the AMI Animal Care & Handling Conference, October 17-18, 2012 in Kansas City. To learn more about the conference or to register, visit www.Animalhandling.org.