- Continue transitioning sow barns to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system
- Implement environmental enrichments in 100% of our sow barns
- Implement enrichments in 100% of our nursery and growing pig barns
- Add climate-controlled poultry trailers to our fleet and complete rollout of our digital transportation monitoring system
- Implement animal care certification for employees in our animal operations
- Transitioned 50,000 sows (77% of total sows) to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system to-date
- Converted 100% of our pig trailers to a hydraulic-lift deck system to reduce pig stress during loading and unloading
- Installed enrichment and toys in 90% of our nursery and growing pig barns
- Developed an animal care certification program for our employees
Since 2013, we have reduced our antibiotic usage by 63% across Maple Leaf Foods’ owned pork farms.
100% Raised Without Antibiotics
We transitioned our Maple Leaf Prime® brand to 100% Raised Without Antibiotics in 2019.
Largest producer of RWA pork
Maple Leaf Foods is the largest producer of RWA pork in North America and the largest in Canadian poultry.
Commitment to Animal Care
Download our animal care materials and learn more about our commitments.
Our Journey Towards Better Care
In our journey towards better care of our animals, we have significantly enhanced governance, investment and operational focus to build a world-class animal care program. Our veterinarians oversee animal care along with dedicated Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) staff at each of our processing plants.
We also believe that education and training are the foundation to knowledge, empowerment, accountability and a strong, animal care culture. All employees who handle animals receive animal care training when they commence employment, and this is reviewed at minimum annually.
Maple Leaf Foods will advance our strategic priority of responsible animal care through the following three initiatives:
- Demonstrating leadership in animal care policies and practices
- Investing in housing design and enrichment in all our facilities to support natural behaviours
- Investing in facilities, transportation and processes to eliminate pain and stress
Leadership and Collaboration
Maple Leaf Foods works with numerous stakeholders to advance animal care practices across the industry. We also participate in committees and working groups that are working towards advancing animal care practices.
In 2019, we collaborated on leg health and wooden-breast trials with the University of Guelph and provided poultry supply chain “mini-internship” opportunities for students from the University of Alberta. We meet routinely with university researchers to provide input into their research priorities and learn from their ongoing work.
We also meet frequently with animal advocacy groups as they bring important perspectives to issues, global advancements and science related to animal welfare. We are committed to seeking open and constructive relationships with them.
Monthly “Caring Hands Awards”
To recognize people for their outstanding animal welfare practice, we have created a monthly award called the “Caring Hands Award.” This award goes to an individual or a team who leads or sets an example for outstanding animal welfare practice.
The awarded person or persons can be anyone – our hourly, salary or contract staff, or service providers.
We have significantly enhanced governance, investment and operational focus to build a world-class animal welfare program. Animal welfare is a shared responsibility with Maple Leaf executive leadership accountable for our performance.
Our Vice-President of Animal Care leads the implementation of our program, which incorporates leading science and advancements. Senior leaders routinely engage in animal care programs, policies and results through our internal Animal Care Council. Our Animal Health & Welfare Technical Committee and Animal Health & Welfare Technical Committee Working Group are comprised of experts from throughout our Company who meet routinely to identify requirements, advance practices and monitor progress. In addition, we work with a council of external experts, our Maple Leaf Animal Care Advisory Council, to recommend best practices, scientific research and innovation in an effort to help us continually improve. Animal care reports are submitted quarterly to the Safety and Sustainability Committee of the Maple Leaf Foods Board.
Senior leaders of our hog production, poultry and pork businesses continue to maintain operational responsibility for animal care, regularly reviewing reports and audits, and signing off on policies. Within the business, we have five veterinarians who oversee animal welfare, along with dedicated Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians and staff at each of our processing plants. Animal welfare metrics are reported regularly, and non-compliance or audit failures are addressed immediately.
Education and Training
Education and training are foundational to knowledge, empowerment, accountability and a strong animal care culture. Every employee involved in the raising, transport and processing of poultry must be trained on and adhere to our animal care policies and procedures. All employees who handle animals receive animal care training when they commence employment, and this is reviewed minimum annually. Training is a critical part of building a strong animal care culture. In 2019, we developed an animal care certification program for Maple Leaf Foods employees and developed new animal care training video modules for employees working in our fresh pork business.
Maple Leaf Foods has over 50 experts who are Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) certified across our pork and poultry operations, and they monitor animal welfare every day. Our people who are PAACO trained have deep knowledge and skills related to animal welfare monitoring and reporting.
Standards of Practice
Maple Leaf Foods Agri-Farms raises approximately 41% of the pork that we process, with the balance coming from contracted producers. In our poultry operations, we operate three broiler chicken hatcheries and source our supply of chicken from independent producers.
We do not ever use genetic engineering, cloning, growth promoting hormones or beta-adrenergic agonists in any poultry and pork supplying our operations.
All animals in our operations undergo pre-slaughter stunning to ensure they are insensible to pain. The effectiveness is routinely monitored by employees and through internal and third-party remote video auditing. Pre-slaughter stunning is required for all animals in our supply chains.
All piglet physical alterations in Canada are performed with medication for pain control in accordance with the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice. We do not ever perform teeth clipping or ear notching on our piglets, and tattooing of piglets is limited to genetic replacement animals only. Currently, tail docking is a necessary piglet procedure in order to prevent tail injuries from other pigs. We are continuously improving our pain-relief protocols and evaluating alternatives to castration.
Poultry physical alterations are necessary in breeding birds for the long-term welfare of the flock to reduce or eliminate injuries that may cause pain. In Canada, any physical alterations, such as beak and toe treatments, are performed using the most humane methods possible and limited to only essential alterations. All broiler chickens that Maple Leaf Foods sources never undergo physical alterations, including beak treatment, consistent with the NFACC Code of Practice. No physical alterations are performed in Maple Leaf Foods owned hatcheries.
All of our chickens that are processed in Alberta come from barns in Alberta and all of our chickens processed in Ontario come from barns in Ontario. The majority of chickens supplying our fresh poultry plants (approximately 91%) spend less than three hours in transit, while approximately 7% spend three to five hours travelling, and the rest (approximately 2%) do not exceed seven hours of travel time. Most pigs supplying our fresh pork plants (approximately 80%) spend less than four hours in transit and less than 5% of them spend over 12 hours travelling. We are compliant with the transportation requirements set by the Government of Canada Humane Transport Regulations and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.
The transportation of all animals must adhere to regulatory standards. All drivers transporting animals to our processing plants must be certified in Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA) or have Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) certification or equivalent.
Within our operations, Maple Leaf Foods adheres to a number of standards, including:
- National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Codes of Practice
- North American Meat Institute (NAMI) Animal Handling Guidelines, Canadian Quality Assurance Program and Animal Care Assessment Program (called Canadian Pork Excellence and PigSafe, starting in 2020)
- Canadian Hatching Egg Producers CHEQ™ and Animal Care Programs
- Chicken Farmers of Canada Animal Care Program
- Chicken Farmers of Ontario Farm Worker Safety Program
Our Pigs Spend in Transit
Our Chickens Spend in Transit
Monitoring Animal Welfare
Auditing and Corrective Actions
Our employees, who have undergone extensive training through the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO), conduct weekly audits of our hog and poultry facilities. Our meat processing facilities are monitored daily for animal health and quality by on-site Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians and our PAACO-trained employees.
Our Hatcheries and Poultry Barn Operations
Our hatcheries comply with the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice, and Canadian Hatchery Federation (CHF) and National Chicken Council (NCC) standards for welfare in broiler chicken hatcheries.
All of our hatcheries are audited at least annually by an independent auditor and monthly by our PAACO-trained people. The CFIA also audits our processes, animal welfare documents and training records on a regular basis. We regularly monitor the placement of chicks into barns to ensure proper chick handling and barn conditions.
Meat Processing Operations
Our meat processing facilities are monitored by dedicated on-site inspectors from the CFIA. All our processing operations are required to undergo comprehensive third-party animal welfare audits, a minimum of annually, which are conducted by PAACO-certified auditors. These third-party auditors have open access to our facilities and the freedom to interview any of our employees as part of the audit process. This is a leading practice, which allows us to test the effectiveness of our animal welfare practices and procedures based on established and quantifiable animal wellbeing guidelines.
Third-Party Remote Video Auditing
Using modern auditing techniques for system oversight is an important element of accountability. Remote video auditing (RVA) involves daily video-based auditing of our operations by trained third-party auditors. These auditors send out an immediate notification upon observation of any concern or infraction.
Our auditing is performed by industry-leading, third-party expert Arrowsight, who ensures we capture the critical points of animal handling at our hatcheries and primary processing facilities. We are also working with Arrowsight to test mobile RVA technology capable of auditing catching and loading processes on chicken and pig farms.
Responsible Antibiotic Use
Maple Leaf Foods is committed to minimizing or eliminating the use of antibiotics wherever possible, while maintaining high standards of animal care. We are actively engaged in industry and government efforts to reduce antibiotic use in livestock operations, including increasing veterinary oversight of antibiotics prescribed to livestock.
We reduce antibiotic use through our Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA) program, which focuses on providing excellent management, health and nutrition to our animals so that antibiotics are rarely required. Should any animal, herd or flock that is in our RWA program become sick, all treatment options are considered in consultation with a veterinarian, including administering an antibiotic. If an antibiotic is administered, the treated animal, herd or flock is removed from the program. We are actively implementing operating protocols that reduce higher mortality rates in animals that are raised without antibiotics, which is one of our animal care priorities.
Innovations in Animal Welfare
Our Commitment to Advanced Open Housing for Sows
One of our recent advancements is the purchase of hydraulic-lift trailers. In 2019, we completed converting all of our pig trailers to hydraulic-lift decks to reduce stress during loading and unloading. These trailers bring the pigs from the sow barn to nursery barn, and from the nursery to the finishing barns.
In our poultry operations, we are investing in climate-controlled poultry trailers as part of our trailer fleet. We are also implementing a real-time, digital temperature and humidity monitoring system across our poultry transportation system.
Trialing Freedom Farrowing Systems
In 2019, we began a small-scale trial using two different designs of freedom farrowing systems (maternity pens). This allows sows that are nursing piglets more space and increased freedom of movement, while still protecting their piglets from being injured by the sow. The pilot has been successful in allowing increased freedom of movement and not compromising the safety of the piglets. This trial will continue in 2020 and beyond as we gather more data and increase our understanding of sow and piglet behaviour and interaction in these advanced welfare maternity pens.