Pilgrim’s is committed to meeting or exceeding government and industrywide standards for humane animal handling and expects chickens to be handled in a safe and humane manner. Our animal welfare programs include specific requirements and procedures to protect the health and welfare of our chickens during transportation, unloading, handling and processing, as well as the safety of our team members.
During transport and handling, we require that chickens be treated humanely. We have SOPs for animal handling and transportation that include both daily operations and emergency situations. We use mandatory reporting and regular auditing to make sure our procedures are being followed. Pilgrim’s does not tolerate abuse of our chickens under any circumstances. Any abuse of chickens during transportation and handling that could cause harm to the animal is a major nonconformance. All nonconformances are recorded, and corrective action plans are made immediately. Team members who work with live animals are trained on proper animal handling and delivery techniques.
When chickens arrive at our production facilities, they are staged under cover in the winter and under cover with misters and fans in the summer, until they are processed. On our pre-harvest line, chickens are picked up by their legs and placed into shackles by trained team members. They are then stunned to make sure they are insensible to pain when processed. In two poultry production facilities in the U.S. and all production facilities in Europe, controlled atmospheric stunning methods are used. During each shift, managers walk through plants to monitor animal handling compliance and perform quality assessment checks regularly at each station. In the U.S., USDA FSIS personnel are present at plants at all times during processing. The USDA, in cooperation with Pilgrim’s quality assurance team members, assures full compliance with all applicable USDA chicken processing regulations. Our Mexico complexes are compliant with the Federally Inspected Type (TIF), a voluntary food-quality certification of the Mexican government. Our facilities in Europe are compliant with Council Regulation N˚1099/2009 standards on animal welfare.
During transportation, we work to protect our chickens from temperature extremes and provide them with adequate ventilation. During cold weather, we add side and front panels to the transport cages to keep chickens warm. During the summer months, we reduce the number of chickens per cage, keep them shaded and provide fans and misters to keep them cool and minimize heat stress. We strive to minimize the amount of time chickens spend in cages, consistent with regionally appropriate animal welfare practices. We also monitor handling and transport animal welfare metrics of our chickens.
“We monitor animal welfare performance on a daily basis and are constantly looking for ways to improve. I am proud of our continued progress and the commitment of our team to improve the welfare of the chickens under our care.”
Director of Quality Assurance & PAACO Certified Welfare Auditor