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Meat Institute revises animal handling guidelines, audit guide

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Latest edition revises 2017 version to include new scenarios and updated definitions and guidelines.

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) this week released its latest science-based animal care guidelines and audit for the meat industry. The guidelines and audit were authored by Colorado State University professor of animal behavior Dr. Temple Grandin, working with NAMI’s Animal Welfare Committee. The latest edition provides updates from an edition released in 2017.

“The meat and poultry industry is always looking for ways to improve humane animal handling for both the welfare of the animal and the safety of our workforce,” NAMI president and chief executive officer Julie Anna Potts said. “The new animal handling guidelines and audit are the product of member company participation, with the guidance of the Meat Institute’s veterinarian Dr. Tiffany Lee and the world’s foremost expert on animal welfare and the meat industry, Dr. Temple Grandin.”

“It is important to update these guidelines in order to facilitate continuous improvement of animal welfare standards in the meat industry,” Grandin said.

Major changes in this year’s edition include:

  • Adding a new section about how to handle occasions when there is a non-ambulatory or disabled animal on a truck or in the yard;
  • Providing a new definition of “non-ambulatory animal” consistent with U.S. and Canadian regulations;
  • Justifying the use of 100 head as the recommended sample size, and
  • Allowing plants to determine -- using outcomes-based measures -- when water should be provided to animals in drive alleys, which follows Food Safety & Inspection Service policy.

NAMI’s audit was originally developed by Grandin in 1997, and its adoption by meat companies helped transform how livestock are handled and processed in meat plants. Grandin premised the concept of an animal welfare audit on the idea that “you manage what you measure.” By measuring objective criteria like animal vocalizations, falls, prod use to move animals, effective stunning and other criteria, she argued that plants could evaluate their animal handling practices, identify problems and drive continuous improvement. NAMI agreed with her view and invited her to write it.

Since then, data collected by Grandin show that important animal handling and stunning improvements have been made over time in plants, thanks to the widespread use of the guidelines and the audit.

The revised “Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide: A Systemic Approach to Animal Welfare” can be found here.

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