- Complete transitioning our owned sow barns to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system
- Install environmental enrichments in our remaining sow barns as they transition to Advanced Open Sow Housing
- Finish rolling out SafeFlight, our real-time poultry digital trailer environmental monitoring system
- Continue to evaluate the phased elimination of surgical castration of pigs
- Implement environmental enrichments in our first phase of broiler farms
- Advance development of our custom poultry processing video training modules
- Transitioned 61,900 sow spaces (87% of total sow spaces) to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system to date
- Installed environmental enrichments in all our Advanced Open Sow Housing sow barns, nursery and growing pig barns
- Added five climate-controlled poultry trailers to the Alberta fleet
- Fully implemented SafeFlight real-time poultry digital trailer environmental monitoring in our Alberta operations
- Finished implementing Remote Video Auditing in 100% of our hatcheries and processing plants
Maple Leaf Foods is a vertically-integrated company that owns hog production, hatching egg production, broiler chicken hatcheries, and pork and poultry processing plants. Maple Leaf 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 work closely with the third-party hog and poultry farmers and related service providers who supply our processing operations. We also source animal protein for use in our products from supply chains outside our direct care and control, including chicken, turkey, beef, veal, dairy and eggs. We are major producers of pork and chicken and source smaller quantities of turkey, beef, veal, dairy and eggs.
Since 2014, we have reduced our antibiotic usage by 96% across Maple Leaf Foods’ hog operations.
100% Raised Without Antibiotics
We transitioned our Maple Leaf Prime® brand to 100% Raised Without Antibiotics.
Largest producer of RWA pork
Maple Leaf Foods is among the largest producers of RWA pork in North America and the largest in Canadian poultry.
Commitment to Animal Care
The scope of our Commitment to Animal Care extends throughout our global supply chains for all animal proteins we source. The primary focus of our Commitment to Animal Care is establishing standards and practices applicable to our owned operations involving live animals and the Canadian provinces in which they are located. Our Commitment to Animal Care additionally establishes a commitment to work closely with our producer partners and other suppliers to advance high standards of animal care across our supply chain. Animal care requirements for our suppliers and service providers are established through contractual agreements.
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 take active roles in committees and working groups that are working towards advancing animal care practices.
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.
Stakeholders, committees and working groups that Maple Leaf Foods works with:
- Member of the Global Coalition for Animal Welfare (GCAW)
- Member of the Manitoba Pork Council, which itself is a member of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC)
- Board director of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council (CPEPC) and leader in initiating an in-depth broiler welfare working group
- Associate member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and representative in the Animal Care Assessment Framework process for hatchery welfare standards in 2020
- Board member of the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission
- Sponsor of the National Science and Engineering Research Chair in Swine Welfare at the University of Saskatchewan
- Member of the International Poultry Welfare Alliance (IPWA) and participant in the IPWA Broiler Subcommittee
- Platform partner and Advisory Board Vice-Chair of the Poultry Innovation Partnership in Alberta, formerly the Poultry Research Centre at the University of Alberta
- Expert panel member of the Sysco Animal Welfare Council
- Member of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) Animal Welfare Committee
- Presenter at NAMI’s 2020 Animal Care and Handling Conference
- Member of the NAMI Protein PACT for People, Animals and the Climate of Tomorrow
- Participant in the Animal Health Canada Work Group
- Collaborator and supporter of animal health and welfare research projects
Leadership and Collaboration Highlights
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.
Animal Care Oversight
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 and quarterly CEO/COO updates. Our Animal Health & Welfare Technical Committee and Animal Health & Welfare Technical Committee Working Group comprise 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 animals 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.
Maple Leaf Foods has over 30 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 and certified have deep knowledge and skills related to animal welfare monitoring and reporting.
Maple Leaf Foods has over 30 experts who are Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) certified across our pork and poultry operations, and they monitor animal welfare every day.
Monitoring Animal Welfare
Auditing and Correction Actions
A rigorous and highly visible internal, independent, and remote video auditing program is essential to reinforce high standards of animal care.
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
Each of our full chicken supply chains is audited by a third party annually, combined with a comprehensive internal auditing program for each type of operation.
All of our hatcheries are audited monthly by our PAACO-trained and certified people, annually by an independent auditor, and daily through Remote Video Auditing for compliance with the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice, Canadian Hatchery Federation Animal Care Program, and National Chicken Council (NCC) standards for welfare in broiler chicken hatcheries. The CFIA also audits our processes, animal welfare documents and training records on a regular basis. We routinely monitor the placement of chicks into barns to ensure proper chick handling and barn conditions.
Maple Leaf Foods’ owned pullet and broiler breeder flocks are audited monthly by our PAACO-trained people and annually by a third-party auditor according to the NFACC Code of Practice, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers (CHEP) Animal Care Program, and NCC standards for broiler breeders. Hatching egg producers are also audited by their provincial board for compliance with the CHEP Animal Care Program, which incorporates third-party auditing to ensure effective program implementation.
Our third-party broiler chicken farmers undergo internal animal welfare audits by our PAACO-trained Animal Health and Welfare Technicians (AHWT) according to the NFACC Code of Practice, Chicken Farmers of Canada Animal Care Program and NCC standards for broilers. All broiler chicken farmers are also audited by their provincial chicken board for compliance with the Chicken Farmers of Canada Animal Care Program, which incorporates third-party auditing to ensure effective program implementation.
As part of our broiler welfare program, some of our farms also meet the standards of Certified Humane® Raised and Handled and Canadian Organic standards.
Our trained auditors routinely perform chicken catching and loading audits of our third-party contracted catching companies and live haulers according to the NFACC Code of Practice and NCC standards for broilers. Our investment in dedicated, trained auditors responsible for supporting on-farm animal welfare practices of third-party broiler chicken farmers is leading to improvements in bird welfare from chick placement through to catching, transportation and processing. Broiler grow-outs, catching and loading also undergo annual third-party auditing.
Our Hog Barn Operations
All of Maple Leaf Foods’ owned hog production operations are audited annually by our internal quality assurance personnel as well as by a third-party HACCP- and PAACO-certified auditor. Maple Leaf Foods is the first company in Canada to move to full, annual on-farm Canadian Pork Excellence and PigCARE program audits that include animal-based measures. In addition, our owned hog farms receive routine service visits by our internal technical experts. Our five feed mills are licensed by CFIA and are subject to annual audits as well.
Our third-party hog suppliers to our pork plants are required to follow the protocols of the Canadian Quality Assurance Program and Animal Care Assessment Program, which are transitioning to the Canadian Pork Excellence and PigCARE programs, and all elements of the programs are audited by certified auditors. Increasing the visibility of the animal welfare practices of our suppliers, which historically has been the primary responsibility of provincial associations, will be an important part of broader improvements to our program. This will include sharing knowledge and advancements we make in the areas of auditing and reporting, training and operations.
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 well-being guidelines. All of our meat processing operations are also audited daily on each shift through third-party Remote Video Auditing.
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.
Standards and Performance
Standards of Practice
We do not ever use genetic engineering or cloning in any animals we source. We do not ever use growth promoting hormones or beta-adrenergic agonists in any poultry and pork supplying our operations.
Within our operations, Maple Leaf Foods adheres to a number of standards, including:
- National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Codes of Practice
- Canadian Pork Excellence and PigCARE
- North American Meat Institute (NAMI) Animal Handling Guidelines
- Canadian Hatching Egg Producers CHEQ™ and Animal Care Programs
- Canadian Hatchery Federation Animal Welfare Program
- Chicken Farmers of Canada Animal Care Program
- Certified Humane® Raised and Handled (applies to a portion of our broiler chicken supply)
- National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines for Broilers
- National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines for Broiler Breeders
We routinely evaluate various poultry genetic strains to ensure we are raising healthy chickens with high welfare in an environmentally responsible way.
100% of turkeys and chickens in all of our supply chains are group-housed and free from cages and confinement.
All animals in our operations undergo pre-slaughter stunning to ensure they are insensible to pain. The effectiveness is monitored continuously 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. In 2020, we began a trial to evaluate a phased multi-year process of eliminating surgical castration in all pigs we manage.
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.
We are committed to eliminating or reducing close confinement of animals throughout our supply chain. Our broiler breeders, broiler chickens and turkeys are never kept in confinement housing. We are investing heavily in eliminating confinement during sow gestation by converting all our owned barns to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system which is on track to be completed by the end of 2021. We are supportive of efforts by the National Farm Animal Care Council and the Canadian Pork Council to require all Canadian pig farmers to implement loose sow housing.
As part of our commitment to enhancing the mental and physical well-being of our animals, we view environmental enrichments as an important means of supporting natural behaviours, reducing boredom and improving the health of our animals. All of our owned pigs are provided environmental enrichments in the form of carefully selected hanging toys for our nursery-finisher pigs and group housed sows, and we are piloting additional sow enrichments such as burlap. We have completed extensive field trials evaluating broiler environmental enrichments and will be starting our phased implementation of enrichments to support pecking, perching and hiding behaviours in 2021. We also provide pecking stone enrichments to our breeder grower and broiler breeder flocks which have led to improvements in the feathering and health of our flocks.
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 59%) spend less than two hours in transit, while approximately 39% spend two to four hours travelling, and the rest (approximately 2%) do not exceed seven hours of travel time. Most pigs supplying our fresh pork plants (approximately 92%) spend less than eight hours in transit and only 2% of them spend over 12 hours travelling.
We are compliant with the transportation requirements set by the Government of Canada Health of Animals Regulations and Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. 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.
Average Hours Our Pigs Spend in Transit
|< 4 hours||85%|
|> 12 hours||2%|
Average Hours Our Chickens Spend in Transit
|< 2 hours||59%|
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.
Antibiotic Use in Maple Leaf Foods' Pig Operations
mg Active Ingredient / kg Pork Produced
|mg Active Ingredient / kg Pork Produced||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020|
In 2020, antibiotic use in our owned pigs was an average of 34.6 mg of active ingredient per kg of pork produced based on antibiotic quantity dispensed. Of those pigs, 52% were Raised Without Antibiotics and never received any antibiotics throughout their entire lifetime.
Innovations in Animal Welfare
Our Commitment to Advanced Open Housing for Sows
When Maple Leaf Foods set out to assess open housing methods, we worked closely with the University of Manitoba and other industry participants. We wanted to assess current methods and define adaptations that were needed to support Canadian hog production. In 2007, we made our original commitment to move to open sow housing by 2017.
We began significant conversion activities in 2013 to two of our sow barns and transitioned 1,250 sow spaces to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system.
We met our 2007 sow housing commitment in 2017; however, since 2007, Maple Leaf Foods has acquired an additional 33,000 sows. By the end of 2020, we had successfully transitioned approximately 61,900 sow spaces (87% of all our sow spaces) to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system, where sows are free to roam, feed and socialize. All Maple Leaf Foods sows will be moved to our Advanced Open Sow Housing system by the end of 2021.
It takes a great deal of skill and attention to transition animals from a confined environment to enhanced open housing in a way that minimizes natural aggression and competition for food. A significant amount of research, investment and experience has enabled Maple Leaf Foods to support conversion of sows from confined to advanced open housing in a way that optimizes animal well-being.
We have converted all of our pig trailers to hydraulic-lift deck trailers to reduce stress during loading and unloading and enhance ease of use for our drivers. 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 have added five climate-controlled poultry trailers as part of our trailer fleet in Alberta and are working towards implementing climate-controlled poultry trailers in the Ontario fleet. Climate-controlled trailers provide added protection for birds during harsh weather conditions.
We have developed a custom real-time, digital temperature and humidity monitoring system called SafeFlight for use across our poultry transportation system. In 2020, we completed implementation in the Alberta fleet and part of the Ontario fleet. This system reports trailer conditions in real time to our drivers and lairage monitors which enables them to take immediate corrective actions if necessary, improving the comfort and well-being of our birds.
Evaluating Freedom Farrowing Systems
In 2020, we continued to perform 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 2021 and beyond as we gather more data and increase our understanding of sow and piglet behaviour and interaction in these advanced welfare maternity pens.