Tyson Foods announced that it has launched a company-wide auditing program to monitor the treatment of animals by the 12,000 livestock and poultry farmers that supply the company.  Although the company has maintained an Office of Animal Well-Being since 2000, the decision to launch the program was driven in part by an increase in the number of consumers calling for assurances that their food is produced responsibly.

The audits–called the Tyson FarmCheck Program–have begun on a trial basis on some of the 3,000 independent hog farms that supply the company, checking on such things as proper human-animal interaction, worker training and animal access to food and water. “Tyson’s auditing program is worthwhile because everything we can do to document our actions and show we’re providing excellent animal care–especially as customers get further removed from the farm–is a good thing,” said Dennis Gratz, a hog farmer from Farmington, Iowa.

The program has been under development since early spring 2012. Ultimately involving independent, third-party auditors, it will be expanded to include chicken and cattle farms by January 2014. The audits are being developed by experienced veterinarians and animal welfare experts and are expected to include measures that build upon current voluntary farm industry programs.

“We believe what makes FarmCheck different is the increased focus on verification of on-farm practices and the opportunity to work with farmers to correct any problems that are discovered,” spokesman Gary Mickelson told Meatingplace. “To our knowledge, no other major U.S. meat or poultry company offers this kind of service to its farmers, customers and consumers,” President and CEO Donnie Smith said in a news release.