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Walmart requires meat suppliers to publicly report antibiotic use - Updated

Smithfield Foods supports Walmart announcement

Cheryl Day

May 22, 2015

5 Min Read
Walmart requires meat suppliers to publicly report antibiotic use - Updated

Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. announced an updated position on animal welfare and responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals, today. The company joins a growing list of companies that are updating sourcing requirements to ensure sustainable supply chains in response to customers’ feedback, according to the companies’ media statements.

In revisions of Walmart’s animal welfare position, the company supports the globally recognized Farm Animal Welfare Council’s Five Freedoms. Walmart is also calling on its suppliers to:

  • Report and take disciplinary and corrective action in cases of animal abuse.

  • Find and implement solutions to address animal welfare:

    • Housing systems that lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization (for example, sow gestation crates, hen battery cages and veal crates)

    • Painful procedures where avoidable or without pain management (for example, tail docking, de-horning and castration)

    • Euthanasia or slaughter without rendering an animal insensible to pain.

  • Promote transparency by providing progress reports to Walmart and publicly reporting against their own corporate animal welfare position on annual basis.

A closer look at Walmart’s policy on fresh pork supply chain, the company in 2014 launched a tracking and audit program for pork suppliers with records subject to review upon request. This program also includes video monitoring on hog farms. At the same time, Walmart made it mandatory that the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus Program requirements to be followed by all suppliers.

Meanwhile, the real reason for the May 22 announcement was to share the company’s policy on responsible use of antibiotics. The supplier guideline on antibiotic use in farm animals is consistent with the White House's national plan to curb antibiotic resistance and duplicates provisions in the Food and Drug Administration’s guidance 209 and 213. The one twist to the antibiotic use supplier policy is the requirement for suppliers to publicly report antibiotic use on annual basis.

Walmart is asking suppliers to:

  • Adopt and implement the Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobial Use from the American Veterinary Medical Association including accurate record-keeping, veterinary oversight, and limiting antimicrobial treatment to animals that are ill or at risk.

  • Adopt and implement Voluntary Guidance for Industry #209 from the Food and Drug Administration in their own operations and their industry producer programs, including eliminating growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics

  • Promote transparency by providing a report on antibiotics management to Walmart and publicly report antibiotic use on an annual basis.

The guidelines apply to all suppliers for Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Smithfield support policy change

Smithfield Foods said today that it supports Walmart in its release of the company's new animal welfare and antibiotics positions. Smithfield is already compliant with the newly announced policies on its company-owned farms and encourages the rest of the industry to develop programs consistent with these guidelines.

Smithfield ceased using human-grade antibiotics for growth promotion in its pigs on company-owned and contract farms more than two years ago. This move voluntarily aligned Smithfield with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) guidelines 209 and 213 years ahead of schedule.

"We understand that potential antibiotic resistance is a public health concern, and that's why we are leading the pork industry in ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics within our operations," said C. Larry Pope, Smithfield's president and chief executive officer.

In addition, back in 2007 Smithfield Foods was the first in its industry to announce that it would transition pregnant sows to group housing systems on its company-owned operations in the U.S. The company reported that as of December 2014, more than 71%—or seven out of every 10—of its pregnant sows on company-owned farms had been transitioned to group housing. The project should be completed by 2017.

"We've accepted our role as the world's largest pork producer and have led the charge by addressing challenging issues facing the industry while improving our sustainability program and processes to meet the ever-changing needs and demands of our customers and consumers," Pope said.

In citing Smithfield's leadership position, Pope listed:

  • Voluntarily aligning Smithfield's antibiotics policy with FDA guidelines by ending the use of human-grade antibiotics for growth promotion;

  • Being the only company in the industry to report its antibiotics usage, which the company has done since 2007;

  • Being the first pork industry company to commit in 2007 to providing group housing for its pregnant sows on company-owned farms;

  • Implementing a sustainability program with goals, targets and benchmarks for industry-leading programs;

  • Being first in the industry to achieve ISO 14001 environmental certification for all of the company's farms and pork processing facilities worldwide;

  • Being the first pork producer to develop and implement a comprehensive, systematic animal welfare management program to monitor and measure animal well-being;

  • Removing ractopamine from feed for all company-owned animals supplied to our processing facilities.

NPPC responds to Walmarts announcement

The National Pork Producers Council applauds Walmart’s commitment, announced May 22, to sustainable and responsible farming, which America’s pork producers make every day. By using antibiotics responsibly and providing humane and compassionate care for their animals, pork producers ensure animal health and well-being and a safe, wholesome food supply. Walmart’s recognition of that proves that America’s farmers, not extreme animal activist groups, should be setting food policy.

The U.S. pork industry’s long-standing training and certification programs have worked to ensure that farmers and veterinarians use antibiotics responsibly, protecting the efficacy and availability of antibiotics for therapeutic and disease prevention purposes for the health and safety of animals and the food supply.

The Judicious Use Guidelines of the American Veterinary Medical Association and of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Responsible Use of Antibiotics Guidelines in the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program are closely aligned, and NPPC supports their incorporation into every farmer’s daily practices. Additionally, the pork industry is adopting changes included in FDA Guidance 213, which is restricting the use in food animals of medically important antibiotics, as well as the agency’s Veterinary Feed Directive. The industry also is working with USDA and FDA to best accomplish meaningful reporting of antibiotics use data.

America’s hog farmers are committed to producing safe, affordable and healthful foods for consumers and using industry practices that have been designed with input from veterinarians and other animal-care experts to provide humane and compassionate care for their pigs at every stage of life.


About the Author(s)

Cheryl Day

Former Editor, National Hog Farmer

Cheryl Day is a former editor of National Hog Farmer.

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