One of the nation’s leading experts in animal care and well-being is calling the new Pork Quality Assurance Plus program a good first step to addressing animal well-being concerns of the pork industry.

Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and the author of more than 300 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare and facility design, says the pork industry is diverse enough that it is difficult to develop guidelines for everyone. “But PQA Plus is  a good first step for addressing well-being,” says Grandin, who added that she has used PQA Plus with other groups as an example of providing guidelines on animal care and well-being.

PQA Plus, which will replace the industry's PQA Level III certification program on June 1, merges the food safety concepts of the PQA program with the animal well-being principles contained in the Swine Welfare Assurance Program, which was developed by animal care experts and producers.

“The animal care and well-being component of PQA Plus addresses 12 areas that affect the well-being of animals on-farm,” says Dale Norton, National Pork Board's animal welfare committee chairman. “Housing, air quality, caretaker training and other factors all contribute to the animals’ well-being.  PQA Plus is not a housing program, nor is it a caretaker training program, PQA Plus tries to address all the factors that contribute to an animal’s well-being on the farm.”

The program has three distinct steps: An individual certification through education; an assessment of sites where pigs are being raised; and an independent third-party audit component to assure that continuous improvement goals are being achieved.

A nationwide network of trained and certified advisors will work with pork producers to help them achieve PQA Plus certification. The certification will be good for three years, when it must be renewed. Producers currently certified in PQA Level III need not obtain PQA Plus certification until their current status has expired.

PQA Plus is the result of work by a coalition of participants, including producers, packers/processors, retail food stores and restaurants. The audit provision of the new program was reviewed by a technical committee that included Grandin, Janice Swanson of Kansas State University, Ed Pajor of Purdue University and Lisa Tokach, a veterinarian practicing in Kansas.  

The official launch of PQA Plus will occur during World Pork Expo in Des Moines June 7-9. Questions about the program can be addressed to (800) 456-PORK. Additional information also is available at www.pork.org under the "For Producers" tab.

Source: The National Pork Board