Animal Stewardship Policy
Hormel Foods is dedicated to doing things the right way in everything we do. That includes our animal stewardship practices. To maintain our high standards, we have developed the following principles to guide our animal care and handling procedures.
- All farms will provide a balanced and nutritious diet and water.
- A safe and humane environment will be furnished for every animal throughout its life, including minimizing stress, managing social needs and controlling environmental conditions.
- Every facility will be properly maintained with the animals’ well-being in mind, including appropriate facilities and space and the utilization of compassionate, stress-reducing techniques during handling.
- Animals will be provided appropriate preventive and, if necessary, medical care, including veterinary oversight and the identification of prompt treatment of sick animals. When medically necessary, we use antibiotics responsibly.
- We will follow clearly documented humane procedures in the event an animal needs to be euthanized.
We have developed industry-leading standards in conjunction with animal care experts, including renowned authorities on humane animal husbandry. These veterinarians and animal experts help us to create a blueprint that ensures every animal is raised in a healthy environment and treated with care, respect and compassion throughout their entire life. Our network of family farm suppliers understands and shares these values.
Hormel Foods has a zero-tolerance policy toward the mistreatment of animals through abuse or neglect. We have strict requirements related to animal care, overseen by veterinarians, third-party experts and a team of animal welfare professionals at Hormel Foods.
In addition to these principles, we have additional requirements for hogs and turkeys. Our Applegate subsidiary has additional animal care requirements as well. Applegate works with third-party certifiers like Global Animal Partnership® and Certified Humane® to ensure animals are raised and handled in ways that honor the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. Applegate requires all its suppliers to meet third-party certified animal welfare standards.
Animal Welfare Management
In 2009, Hormel Foods created the animal welfare and handling manager position, whose sole responsibility is to enforce our stringent standards for animal welfare at all domestic production sites.
Routine audits are conducted at our facilities and we hire third-party auditors to gather information to continuously improve our animal welfare procedures. In addition, employees have a confidential hotline so they can anonymously report any animal welfare procedure that does not meet our standards.
To ensure the accountability of our animal welfare standards, we have several animal welfare committees in place. In 2016, Hormel Foods implemented a corporate Animal Welfare Steering Committee and an Animal Welfare Committee at each hog-harvesting facility. This is in addition to the Jennie-O Turkey Store Animal Welfare Review Board that has been in place for many years.
We raise our hogs and turkeys in climate-controlled barns that keep them healthier and protect them from predators, diseases and extreme weather conditions. In addition, all of the turkeys raised by Jennie-O Turkey Store are housed in open barns and our company-owned hog farm has transitioned to group sow housing.
We expect all of our employees and suppliers to follow our standards when treating and handling animals. Employees and producers regularly review, agree to and follow a personal pledge of conduct, which outlines our principles for animal welfare and handling.
At processing plants, all personnel involved in receiving hogs and turkeys are routinely trained in the proper and humane handling of all animals.
We also conduct routine audits at our facilities by trained, internal auditors and third-party auditors. Information collected from each audit is then used to continuously improve our animal handling procedures.
We understand the importance of using antibiotics responsibly in all settings, including animal agriculture. We have not only invested in raising animals without antibiotics, we have also been stewards of alternative approaches to animal health and well-being to minimize the need for antibiotics. We never use medically important antibiotics for growth promotion, feed efficiency or weight gain. Protecting human health and the health of our animals is of the utmost importance, and we are proud of our ongoing stewardship efforts. We focus our efforts the following ways:
- Reducing the use of antibiotics — Reducing the need for antibiotics has been and continues to be important to us. We focus our efforts on keeping our animals healthy so that antibiotics aren’t needed. For example, we employ seven veterinarians at our Jennie-O Turkey Store subsidiary — more than any other turkey company in the industry — and partnered with a leading animal veterinary clinic to help define long-term health strategies for our company-owned sow farm. We also continue to research ways to use products such as prebiotics, probiotics and essential oils to maintain animal health and welfare for turkeys (read more here in our white paper). In addition, veterinarians monitor and evaluate the health and welfare of all of our animals, as well as our antibiotic use, on an ongoing basis.
- Responsible use of antibiotics — We comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s industry guidance that eliminates the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion. While we continue to make reductions in antibiotic use, we believe the responsible use of antibiotics includes the appropriate treatment of sick animals. When antibiotics are needed to properly care for an animal, only approved medications and dosage levels are used under the direction of a veterinarian. In addition, Hormel Foods has a leading animal welfare auditing program and ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics is a key part of that program.
- Producing raised-without-antibiotics products — Hormel Foods has invested in producing raised-without-antibiotics products. In fact, our purchase of Applegate is a significant commitment in this regard. Our Applegate® product portfolio is produced entirely from animals raised without antibiotics. If antibiotics are given to an animal, that animal does not enter the Applegate supply chain. In addition, we offer several raised-without-antibiotics foodservice items, Columbus® products and Jennie-O® products.
- Partnering with stakeholders — To further demonstrate our commitment to this important issue, in 2015 we formed an Antibiotic Working Group comprised of internal subject-matter experts, leading nongovernmental organizations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts and Farm Foundation, independent veterinarians and other stakeholders to discuss and continue to advance this important industry topic. We also review and explore research opportunities and will continue to participate in industry antibiotic initiatives. Additionally, we are working to support broader dialogue around the challenges of addressing antimicrobial resistance through membership in the Business Council of the United Nations as well as the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education.
In 2018, Hormel Foods along with other food companies, retailers, livestock producers and trade and professional associations announced a comprehensive framework to strengthen stewardship of antibiotic use in food animals. The framework was part of a two-year dialogue with stakeholders, moderated by the Farm Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts, to ensure that antibiotics are used judiciously throughout production to protect animal and public health.
The 15 core components of the antibiotic stewardship framework are based on the importance of veterinary guidance and partnership, disease prevention strategies and optimal treatment approaches, as well as effective record keeping and a culture of continuous improvement and commitment to antibiotic stewardship. The components address education, implementation and evaluation steps for phasing in stewardship programs. The framework’s guiding principles are intended to help ensure that stewardship programs have a clear scientific basis, are transparent, minimize the risk of unintended consequences, encourage alternatives to antibiotics, and focus on long-term sustainability.
We are proud to share more about our efforts in our Antibiotic Stewardship Report. This special supplemental report provides more details about our antibiotic stewardship program and metrics from some of the farms in our supply chain.
In addition to our ongoing stewardship efforts, we are committed to the following next steps:
- We will strive to achieve a 10 percent year-over-year reduction in medically important antibiotic use at our company-owned turkey farms and company-owned sow farm, with the understanding that health challenges may arise that could result in the goal not being met during certain years.
- We will include the use of medically important antibiotics, by class, in our antibiotic stewardship reports for our company-owned turkey farms and our company-owned sow farm beginning with calendar year 2021. We will include the use of medically important antibiotics, by class, for the remaining farms that are already included in our antibiotic stewardship reports beginning with calendar year 2022.
- We will strive to eliminate the routine use of medically important antibiotics at our Jennie-O Turkey Store farms in 2022, and on our company-owned sow farm by 2025.* We currently use one medically important antibiotic at our company owned sow farm. We will launch a study in January 2022 with our veterinary partner to identify the changes needed to eliminate the routine use of this antibiotic (such as potential management changes and husbandry techniques). Subsequently, we will implement any identified changes as long as they align with our high animal welfare standards.
- We will look for an opportunity to pilot the Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) Pork Standard with a partner supplier from wean to finish.
We will report our progress on these commitments in our antibiotic stewardship reports, corporate responsibility reports and on our corporate website.
Hormel Foods and WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals
Hormel Foods has been a leader in the establishment of an antibiotics stewardship program in its supply chain. Our robust antibiotic stewardship commitments are comprehensive and meet or exceed standards established by governing authorities in the United States, including as directed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) standards.
The company reports on the progress of these efforts in its annual Antibiotics Stewardship report. As part of this effort, the company defines areas where it can continue as a thought-leader. The company has worked with multiple organizations to improve stewardship practices across the food animal sector, including PEW Charitable Trusts, the United Nations Business Council, and the National Institute for Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education. Additionally, as we continue to look for opportunities to evolve, we have decided to develop a working group to assess the WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals.
As it relates to the WHO Guidelines, Hormel Foods reinforces our commitment to antibiotic stewardship and our support of the essence of the WHO Guidelines:
- The company already supports a number of World Health Organization (“WHO”) Guidelines and it recently made significant commitments that correspond to WHO principles.
- We agree with the WHO Guidelines that the use of medically-important antibiotics should be reduced, including in food-producing animals, while acknowledging the need to account for any animal welfare-related concerns.
- We have also made commitments to strive to achieve a reduction in the use of medically-important antimicrobials, as per WHO guidelines. These reduction goals are published on the Hormel Foods website and progress is illustrated in an annual antibiotic stewardship report.
- We already comply with the WHO Guidelines recommendation to eliminate use of medically- important antimicrobials for growth promotion, based on the current guidance published by the FDA.
- While Hormel Foods is aligned with several key points contained in the WHO Guidelines, there are a few notable areas, specifically recommendations where WHO itself has stated that a recommendation is a “conditional recommendation, with very low-quality evidence.”
- In 2023-2024, we will convene a group of third-party experts to focus on those Guidelines that WHO has defined as “conditional recommendation[s], with very low-quality evidence.” This varied group of stakeholders will explore the feasibility and potential impacts of implementation, with a focus on animal welfare. The summation of their findings will be gathered into a report and made available on our website.
The Company is invested in producing raised-without-antibiotics products. For example, the Company’s Applegate® product portfolio is produced entirely from animals raised without antibiotics. In addition, the Company offers several raised-without-antibiotics foodservice items, Columbus® products and Jennie-O® products.
*As defined in the “Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine: 6th Revision” by the World Health Organization. Routine use means antibiotic use for disease prevention purposes. For example, treating all animals in a flock or herd at a certain time as a regular practice (such as at weaning or before shipping) is by definition routine use even if administered to individual animals of that flock or herd by injection. In addition, antibiotics delivered through animal feed, water, injectable or any other delivery mechanism, to a group of animals that has not been diagnosed with a transmissible bacterial infection is also considered routine use.
Michelle Kromm, director of production, nutrition and technical services at Jennie-O Turkey Store discusses how her team takes care of turkeys for optimal health.
Research, Innovation and Investment
At our facilities, we monitor scientific findings to continually evaluate, invest in and develop new ways to improve our hog and turkey handling processes.
For example, we operate a state-of-the-art hog holding facility at our Austin (Minn.) Plant, which was designed to maximize the animal welfare quality and working conditions for our employees. We have also received a patent for our process related to improving turkey handling at Jennie-O Turkey Store.
Hormel Foods is recognized as a leader within the hog and turkey industries for developing and implementing best-practice animal welfare handling procedures. We share our best practices and state-of-the-art facility designs with our peers and other industry stakeholders, and offer them in-person tours of our facilities. We also consult with subject-matter experts, such as veterinarians, to update and maintain our practices.
As part of the Professional Animal Auditors Certification Organization (PAACO), we invite participants to our hog and turkey facilities as part of the real-world training component of its program. Several members of the Jennie-O Turkey Store and Hormel Foods teams are PAACO-certified auditors.
In addition, to help ensure new research within the turkey industry, Jennie-O Turkey Store provides support to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council, and the National Turkey Federation.
We are also proud to have representatives serving as members, officers and directors of the boards of many industry organizations, including:
- Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska;
- American Association of Poultry Pathologists;
- American College of Poultry Veterinarians;
- American College of Poultry Veterinarians Continuing Education Committee;
- American Meat Science Association;
- American Veterinary Medical Association;
- American Veterinary Medical Association Agricultural Liaison Committee;
- American Veterinary Medical Association Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee;
- Animal Agriculture Alliance;
- Association of Avian Pathologists Animal Welfare Committee;
- Association of Avian Pathologists Board of Directors;
- Association of Avian Pathologists Drugs and Therapeutics Committee;
- Association of Veterinarians in Turkey Production;
- Colorado Farm Bureau;
- Colorado Livestock Association;
- Colorado Pork Producers Association Board of Directors;
- Consumer Brands Association;
- Global Food Safety Initiative;
- Institute of Food Technologists;
- International Association of Food Protection;
- Midwest Poultry Research Committee;
- Minnesota Board of Animal Health Emergency Disease Management Committee;
- Minnesota Agricultural Utilization Research Institute;
- Minnesota AgriGrowth Council Board of Directors;
- Minnesota Poultry Federation;
- Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Board of Directors;
- Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council;
- National Grain and Feed Association;
- National Pork Board;
- National Pork Producers Council (NPPC);
- North American Meat Institute Board of Directors;
- North American Meat Institute Animal Welfare Committee;
- North American Meat Institute Scientific Affairs Committee;
- North American Meat Institute Foundation of Meat and Poultry Research and Education;
- NPPC Animal Health and Food Security Policy Committee;
- National Turkey Federation’s Board of Directors;
- National Turkey Federation’s Executive Committee;
- National Turkey Federation’s Health and Welfare Committee;
- National Turkey Federation’s Live Production Committee;
- National Turkey Federation’s Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee;
- National Turkey Federation’s Turkey Health Task Force;
- Poultry Science Association;
- Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization;
- State of Wisconsin Livestock Facility Siting Review Board;
- United States Animal Health Association;
- University of Wisconsin Meat Science Advisory Board;
- University of Wisconsin Poultry Science Advisory Committee;
- USPOULTRY Foundation Research Advisory Committee;
- Wisconsin Poultry & Egg Association; and
- World Poultry Association.