In recent years, a patchwork of increasingly complex customer demands and auditing programs have surfaced for pork producers in response to consumers who expect more from their food, but know less about what it takes to get it to their table.
“Industry stakeholders needed a consistent, reliable and verifiable way to assure on-farm animal well-being and preharvest food safety,” said National Pork Board President Dale Norton. “It was important to eliminate duplication and administrative burdens placed on producers.”
At the 2013 National Pork Industry Forum, a producer-directed resolution charged the National Pork Board with exploring a credible, affordable solution to assure on-farm animal well-being. This spawned the Industry Audit Task Force, which included producers, veterinarians, animal scientists, retail and foodservice personnel and packer representatives from Cargill, Farmland/Smithfield, Hatfield, Hormel, JBS, Seaboard, Triumph and Tyson.
The goal was to develop a consensus on consistent on-farm auditing standards using the Pork Quality Assurance® Plus and Transport Quality Assurance® programs as a foundation. The result is the Common Swine Industry Audit, which was announced at the 2014 World Pork Expo. It has been tested on farms and is now ready to be implemented by producers and packers across the country.
“The common audit incorporates scientific evidence, ethics and economics, which must be balanced for the pork industry to remain sustainable,” said Sherrie Webb, the Pork Checkoff’s animal welfare director. “As a third-party audit, it provides assurance of farmers’ and processors’ commitment to animal well-being and preharvest food safety.”
The standardized audit platform is designed to:
Meet individual company and customer needs.
- Focus on outcome-based criteria that measure the welfare of pigs.
- Provide clarity to pork producers about audit standards and expectations.
- Minimize duplication and prevent over-sampling.
- Ensure greater integrity of the audit process through consistent application.
- Provide an objective, science-based platform to facilitate continuous improvement in animal care.
“The industry has come together on this audit platform with the goal of better serving the needs of farmers, packers, processors, retail and foodservice providers and consumers,” Webb said. “This is not a Pork Checkoff program, but rather an initiative led by producers and packers working together to enhance animal care and pork safety.”
With hands-on participation from the outset, many packers have signed on to use the new Common Swine Industry Audit when conducting third-party audits of their suppliers.
“As packers, we operate between our suppliers – the pork producers – and our customers – those who are selling pork to consumers,” said Chris Hodges, chairman of the Pork Checkoff’s Packer Processer Industry Council and senior vice president of fresh pork at Smithfield/Farmland.
“The public is focused on where its food comes from and how it is raised,” Hodges said. “Meeting our customers’ demands, while still appreciating the challenges producers face is tough. We are very pleased that these new audit tools will be available to the pork industry to demonstrate the progress we continue to make with on-farm animal care.”