Tyson Foods has sent a letter to all of its hog producers outlining measures the company is taking to improve the hog-raising practices in those farms.

“These steps are being taken as part of our ongoing animal well-being program and reflect input we’ve received from our Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel, customers, farmers and industry experts,” the company said in a statement. “They also reflect our continuing efforts to balance the expectations of consumers with the realities of today’s hog farming business.”

The steps the company is taking include:

1-Increasing the number of third party sow farm audits conducted through its FarmCheck program

2-Urging hog producers to use video monitoring in their sow farms to increase oversight and decrease biosecurity risks.

3-Encouraging hog producers to stop using manual blunt force as a primary method of euthanizing sick or injured piglets.

4-Supporting the use of pain mitigation (such as anesthetic or analgesic) for tail docking and castration of piglets.

5-Urging hog farmers to improve housing for pregnant sows by focusing on the quality and quantity of space provided, including urging all future sow barn construction or remodeling to allow for pregnant sows of all sizes to stand, lie down, stretch their legs and turn around.

“We recognize there are differing views on these issues and that this letter raises questions,” the letter reads. “While we don’t have all the answers, we can tell you we plan to work with you as well as our Animal Well-Being Advisory Panel, industry groups – such as the National Pork Producers Council – and our customers in the coming months. We’re trying to balance the expectations of consumers with the realities of today’s hog farming business. The pork industry has a history of being responsive to changing market dynamics and we look forward to working with you on our current challenges.”

Following Tyson’s announcement, the National Pork Board released a statement that read in part:

“On behalf of America's pork producers, the National Pork Board continues to recognize and promote the opportunity for producers, working with their veterinarians, to make the best decisions for their farms, their families, their employees and their animals. Producers need workable, credible and affordable solutions for improving animal care. From a broad industry perspective, there are a number of important issues raised by today's announcement:

• Currently there are no approved drugs for the use of pain mitigation in pig farming. We strongly encourage pig farmers to work with their herd veterinarian to explore options to comply with Tyson's recommendation and to ensure all federal drug-use regulations are met appropriately under the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act.

• The National Pork Board maintains the position, supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, that there are numerous ways to provide proper housing and care for sows. Each housing system, including individual and group housing, free-access stalls and pastures, has welfare advantages and disadvantages that must be considered by a farmer. Regardless of the type of system used, what really matters is the individual care given to each pig - a mainstay of our industry's Pork Quality Assurance® Plus program.

• Video monitoring can be a useful tool in auditing animal welfare on U.S. pig farms. However, video monitoring, like in-person auditing, is only one component of providing and ensuring good animal care and can add significant cost to the farmer. Auditing and monitoring should be balanced with a comprehensive approach to animal welfare that includes caretaker training to positively affect human-animal interaction.”

Source: Tyson Foods, National Pork Board