Pork unveils common audit

Consumers are becoming more interested in how their food is raised. At the 2014 World Pork Expo, the National Pork Board announced a new common industry audit plan for pork producers, packers and processors to help provide greater assurance of the care taken to improve animal care and food safety.

Pork unveils common audit

Consumers are becoming more interested in how their food is raised. At the 2014 World Pork Expo, the National Pork Board announced a new common industry audit plan for pork producers, packers and processors to help provide greater assurance of the care taken to improve animal care and food safety.

The plan uses the existing Pork Quality Assurance Plus program as its foundation.

“PQA Plus was already there to enhance and ensure animal welfare, and we knew customers were asking more from us,” says Chris Novak, National Pork Board CEO. “Looking at the 25-year history of the PQA program and the investments we’ve made as an industry in animal welfare research, this is an evolution for us in our industry’s desire, willingness and commitment to do what’s right.”

The Industry Audit Task Force includes producers along with others representing the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, and packers Cargill, Farmland-Smithfield, Hatfield, Hormel, JBS, Seaboard, Triumph and Tyson. “PQA Plus is a very successful program establishing standards and benchmarks that have been the hallmark of our success,” says Chris Hodges, chairman of the Packer Processer Industry Council and senior vice president at Farmland-Smithfield. “There was one little gap: the ability to get 100% participation in the PQA program.” The new audit program, a joint effort of processors and producers, seeks to bridge this gap.

Now a common standard

The time is right for an audit program with common criteria. Recently some packing companies such as Tyson and Hormel announced their own audit programs, and producers were asking for an audit program with common standards and criteria. Many packers have agreed to support the new audit program, which means using the common audit standard when conducting third-party audits.

Avoiding duplication is one of the program’s goals. “We saw the potential for more audit programs to be introduced in the industry,” Novak says. “We began to ask, if there will be more on-farm audits coming, how do we make sure we’re auditing the same things? Farmers need a clear expectation of what the auditors are looking for every time they show up on the farm. We also need to know those auditors will be properly trained. All of these issues are what the Industry Audit Task Force has been working on the past 18 months.”

The audit platform seeks to create a standardized process that will:

• meet the needs of companies and customers

• focus on outcome based criteria that measure animal welfare.

• provide clarity with regard to audit standards and expectations

• minimize duplication and prevent oversampling

• ensure greater integrity of audit process with consistent application

The new program has several key components, including a new audit tool, requirements for biosecurity during audits, and a platform allowing audit results to be shared to prevent duplicate audits. The tool is being tested across the country. The task force will review results in July before finalizing the new audit.

The process will assess four areas: livestock, facilities, caretaker training and recordkeeping. While there isn’t a definitive threshold established where producers either pass or fail, Novak says any acts of willful abuse or cases of severely injured animals will result in an automatic fail.

Otherwise, if the producer doesn’t receive a perfect score for certain categories, there is room for continued improvement. “The producer is given the opportunity to work with the packer to fix those issues on some type of improvement plan,” says Novak. “If you have an audit today and receive a score based on the audit tool, the next time the farm is audited have you made adjustments? Have you made improvements in animal care?”

Dale Norton, National Pork Board president and Michigan pork producer, says some producers may get nervous when the word “audit” comes up, but the process isn’t much different from a PQA assessment, and provides an opportunity for improvement. “We have to remember this program is built on continued improvement. We know we aren’t going to be perfect, but we have an opportunity to improve,” he says.

“My job as a producer in providing high-quality, well-cared for, safe pork is very important to me. I think this program will give us the tools to help do that.”

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GOAL: The new common industry audit plan is about continued improvement in assuring animal care and high-quality, safe pork. “We know we aren’t going to be perfect, it gives us the opportunity to improve,” says Dale Norton of NPB.

This article published in the July, 2014 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.

Swine Herd Management

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