After 18 months of industry collaboration, the National Pork Board announces that a new common swine industry audit platform for pork producers, packers and processors is now certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization and is available to the public. The new audit tool builds on the existing Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and expands it to serve as a single, common audit platform for the pork industry.
The overarching goal of the common audit process is to provide consumers greater assurance of the care taken by farmers and pork processors to improve animal well-being and food safety. The concept of a common audit was first introduced at the 2013 National Pork Industry Forum and reintroduced last June at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, where a coalition of packers and pork producers explained how the audit is a credible and affordable solution for improving animal well-being.
“As an industry, we know that our customers are demanding a higher level of integrity from the pork industry’s quality assurance processes and procedures,” says John Johnson, chief operating officer of the NPB. “We are encouraged by the broad support we have received from our industry partners to develop this tool, which has now gained third-party certification.”
To help avoid duplicative, costly and inefficient audit programs that are commonplace in some countries, this new tool is designed to:
• Meet individual company and customer needs.
• Be focused on outcome-based criteria that measure and improve animal welfare.
• Provide clarity to producers about audit standards and expectations.
• Minimize duplication and prevent over-sampling.
• Ensure greater integrity of the audit process through consistent application.
• Provide an objective, science-based platform to facilitate continuous improvement in animal care.
The new common audit framework has several key components, including a new audit tool, instructions for auditors, biosecurity protocols and a platform that will allow audit results to be shared to prevent duplicative audits. The audit tool was beta-tested on farms across the country and is ready for implementation by farms and processing plants across the United States.
“The industry has come together on this audit platform with the goal of better serving the needs of farmers, packers, processors, retail and food service providers and consumers,” Johnson says. “This is not a Pork Checkoff program, but rather an initiative that has been led by producers and packers working together to enhance animal care and pork safety. We’re grateful to everyone who worked on this effort for their leadership.”
The Industry Audit Task Force included producers, veterinarians representing the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and packer representatives from Cargill, Farmland/Smithfield, Hatfield, Hormel, JBS, Seaboard, Triumph and Tyson.
“As packers, we operate between our suppliers – the pork producers – and our customers – those who are selling pork to consumers,” says Chris Hodges, chairman of the Packer Processer Industry Council and senior vice president of fresh pork at Smithfield-Farmland. “The eye of the public is on where their food comes from and how it is raised. Meeting the demands of our customers, while still appreciating the challenges of our producers is tough. We are very pleased that these tools will be available to the pork industry to demonstrate the progress we continue to make with on-farm animal care.”
Hodges added that the NPB cannot fully deploy the standards of the program without the direct involvement of packers and processors. Many packers have agreed to support the new common industry audit, which means they will utilize the common audit standard when conducting third-party audits.
“This approach has never been more critical,” says Emily Erickson, a member of the Industry Audit Task Force and a pig farmer from Jackson, Minn. “As pork producers, we know that we must do more to reassure consumers about our commitment to improving animal care. At the same time, we need a clear and consistent approach that can ensure we’re doing the right thing every day for our animals, our farmers and our customers. This new framework delivers on that promise.”
NPB President Dale Norton of Bronson, Mich., agreed. “As a pork producer, I am excited because this announcement of a common platform sets a clear vision that challenges the status quo and meets domestic and international consumer needs. It’s the right tool at the right time to ensure we provide high-quality pork from well-cared for pigs.”
Pork producers and allied industry can learn more about the common industry audit by visiting www.pork.org/commonaudit.