A new tool for auditing animal welfare in feedlots developed in Alberta for the Calgary-based National Cattle Feeders Association (NCFA) has been given conditional Certified Audit status from the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, Inc. (PAACO).
“From PAACO’s perspective, this is a great accomplishment and shows great foresight on the part of the Canadian cattle feeders,” said Jennifer Walker, DVM, PhD, newly elected PAACO chair.
“Many species associations, processors, private audit companies and humane organizations have utilized PAACO’s third-party independent review process to ensure the quality and add credibility to their animal welfare audit instruments.”
The Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program developed by the NCFA, is unique in that it is the first certified audit designed for the feedlot segment of the food production industry. It covers the period in an animal’s life from its entry into the feedlot to when it is loaded for slaughter, and thus harmonizes well with the PAACO-certified North American Meat Institute’s (NAMI) meat plant welfare audit.
The program also complements the Canadian Beef Code of Practice with specific best management practices for feedlots.
The non-proprietary instrument is the product of a coalition of feedlot operators, packers and customers (retail and food service), veterinarians, ethologists, animal scientists and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Major packers Cargill, Tyson and JBS were key co-operators in developing the audit.
Lily Edwards-Callaway, PhD, JBS Beef Cattle Welfare leader and NAMI handling committee chair commended the Canadian feedlot industry for taking on this initiative. “Consumers increasingly rank animal welfare as an important factor in their buying decisions and this tool will provide confidence in an integral segment of beef production. This initiative presents an opportunity for our industry to increase transparency and share our animal welfare values with discerning customers and consumers.”
“The feedlot industry has been proactive in working collectively with our processors and other stakeholders, such as our retailers, to develop this assessment tool,” says NCFA chair Larry Schweitzer. “It was important to involve all players in the beef supply chain to create a credible audit instrument, which PAACO’s process brings to this tool.
“Our goal was to have a program that satisfied our packer customers and their retail and food-service customers without adding costs, duplication or a bureaucratic burden on feedlot operations.”
Schweitzer says his organization’s ultimate goal is to eventually harmonize the Canadian feedlot assessment program with U.S. programs to provide a North American feedlot animal care audit/assessment program similar to the NAMI audit for processing plants that is widely adopted in U.S. and Canadian establishments.
Now that the audit has been certified, NCFA’s next step will be to educate Canadian feedlot operators on the expectations and criteria to which they will be held accountable. PAACO is also exploring the opportunities to develop a training curriculum so it can offer auditor certification courses.
PAACO currently has certified nine audits and others are being reviewed.
Information on all PAACO-certified audits and programs, as well as the 16 core criteria for certified audits, is found on the “certification” page of the PAACO website.