Humane Treatment of Animals

A healthy respect for the well-being, proper handling and humane slaughter of all animals within our care is a social and ethical responsibility that maintains an important balance between respecting the needs of animals and providing consumers with high quality, wholesome and affordable food. This responsibility is shared between Maple Leaf Foods and our suppliers, as we all depend on these animals for our products and our livelihood. Everyone involved in the raising and processing of animals and poultry, from producers and transport workers to all of our employees, are required to adhere to good animal handling practices in accordance with industry guidelines, serving as stewards of the animals entrusted to their care.

Maple Leaf retains humane handling experts to inspect our hog and poultry primary processing facilities on an ongoing basis. All our meat processing operations are federally inspected by on-site inspectors and veterinarians employed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, who continuously review and audit our animal handling practices.

Maple Leaf Foods and its operating companies support this commitment by:

  • Adhering to policies and procedures across all our primary processing facilities and growing operations that assure the respectful and humane treatment of animals in accordance with industry codes of practice for animal well-being.
  • Providing our employees with the knowledge and skills required to ensure proper animal handling and welfare practices in their related work areas to ensure they perform their jobs in accordance with best practices.
  • Enforcing a ZERO tolerance for employee abuse of animals within our care and taking appropriate disciplinary action including termination of employment when these standards are violated.
  • Routinely auditing our primary processing plants to test the effectiveness of our animal welfare practices and procedures based on established and quantifiable animal well-being guidelines.
  • Working with producers who share our commitment to upholding high standards of animal welfare.
  • Contracting only with specialty agricultural transportation companies that provide safe and comfortable transportation of livestock and poultry in accordance with industry codes of practice.
  • Taking appropriate disciplinary action against any producers or third-party suppliers who violate animal welfare practices, which may include the termination of contracts.
  • Regularly consult with leading industry experts and animal psychologists on welfare and handling practices.
  • Continuously improving our animal welfare practices and supporting the development of new industry standards and codes through active participation on advisory councils and support for ongoing research.

Loose Housing System for Sows

In 2007, Maple Leaf Foods committed to transitioning to a loose housing system for sows by 2017.

Our first priority was to restructure our hog production operations so that they would be 100 percent owned and managed by Maple Leaf Foods. This restructuring is complete.

Maple Leaf has been working in conjunction with the University of Manitoba and other industry participants to assess current loose housing methods and define adaptations needed to support Canadian hog production. This project will assist us, and the Canadian industry, to implement the optimal system.

Our work has identified a loose housing system currently operational on a smaller scale in Canada that would require less demolition and reconstruction to existing sow barns. We expect that adopting this type of system will reduce the time required to convert our barns to loose housing. We are determining what modifications may be required to adapt this design to our barns.

We plan to complete the first barn conversion in 2013, and complete three per year from 2014 through 2017 to complete the conversion of our 13 barns. This will ensure we meet our commitment.