Animal Welfare

Should I be concerned about animal welfare?

Animal welfare is a top priority for everyone who cares for animals. An animal that is healthy, lives in a low stress environment and is handled properly performs the best. Livestock farmers/ranchers truly care for the livestock they have, and work each and every day to meet the needs of the animals in their care. They apply the latest research coupled with generations of practical experience to improve the welfare of animals, be better stewards of the environment and provide a better product for their consumers. Livestock farmers/ranchers listen to consumer concerns and are constantly evolving their improvement of livestock care and handling practices.

What kind of conditions are animals raised in?

Raising healthy animals is a priority, and their health and well-being is of utmost importance to the farmers/ranchers who care for them. Each production system has its advantages and disadvantages, and livestock caretakers are always looking for ways to improve. 

Housing is used to protect animals from a multitude of things such as weather, predators or disease. Housing allows young animals to grow in consistent conditions, where they have constant access to fresh feed and water and consistent temperatures.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), modern livestock housing is clean and scientifically designed to meet light, temperature, food and water needs. They are well ventilated, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Why are swine kept indoors and in crates when they have babies?

According to the National Pork Producers Council, the U.S. pork industry builds its animal care and well-being programs on the foundation of “What is best for the pig?” U.S. pork producers have a moral obligation to provide the best humane care for their animals.

In nature, animals often develop a “pecking order” amongst the herd, and livestock are no different. That is why the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the use of sow housing that “minimizes aggression and competition between sows;

protects sows from detrimental effects associated with environmental extremes, particularly temperature extremes; reduces exposure to hazards that result in injuries; provides every animal with daily access to appropriate food and water; and facilitates observation by caretakers of individual sow appetites, respiratory rates, urination and defecation and reproductive status.” Sows give birth (farrow) in crates to protect their young. The crates protect the piglets from aggression from the sow and from crushing (sows can weigh between 300-500 lbs.), since the piglets have room to maneuver on either side of the sow.

Why are cattle kept in feedlots?

The majority of cattle spend their time on pasture, no matter what production system they are raised in. Cattle take 20-22 months from birth to reach finishing weight, and only the last 4-6 months are spent in feedlots.
Feedlots are used because it allows the animals to grow more efficiently, and use less resources including water, land and feed. They live in fenced in pens that are cleaned regularly, and have access to fresh feed and water every day.

Feedlots have people who check every pen every day to look for medical or nutritional issues, giving each individual animal the utmost care.

Are livestock treated humanely at processing facilities?

Yes. There are legal standards that every processing facility must meet. Originally passed in 1958, the law that is enforced today by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was passed as the Humane Slaughter Act of 1978. This Act requires the proper treatment and humane handling of all food animals slaughtered in USDA inspected slaughter plants.

The law also states that livestock must be made numb to pain before they are processed, and they may not be handled in a way that causes pain. Handling livestock compassionately also has an effect on the quality of the meat, so processors have an incentive to follow regulations, not just to avoid fines, but to produce a better product.

For more information on animal welfare:

National Pork Producers Council
Animal Ag Alliance
USDA Animal Welfare Information System
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)