The industry has made big shifts in recent years when it comes to defining exactly what humane animal care means. In the past 10 years, producers have shifted from using a base of industry guidelines as nearly every company’s go-to for breeding, hatching, raising and harvesting practices, to making animal welfare a competitive differentiator. It’s now up to producers to decide how they will address continuously evolving market needs and provide confidence for all of those who rely on the industry to provide chicken products with the animal welfare backing they seek—including Wayne Farms.
A recent study of 1,000 chicken consumers showed that 78 percent believed animal welfare should be verified by an objective third party and 57 percent said they would choose a restaurant that offered animal welfare-certified options. Those consumers also indicated they would pay a premium for those products. Forty-eight percent more at retail and five dollars more per entrée at a restaurant, to be exact. Not only does this present financial opportunity, but with Millennials a driving force behind the global vegan movement and with the power of the animal-human bond for GEN Z consumers, there’s a growing demand for products that are backed with meaningful animal welfare programs behind them.
In addition to consumer demand for humanely raised assurances, animal rights activist groups are both capitalizing, and benefiting from, these trends. By mobilizing and issuing requirements they expect retailers and foodservice providers to meet by 2024, as of January of 2020, 175 had already signed-on to the Class of 2024 animal welfare commitments. These commitments include reduced stocking density, increased light intensity, environmental enrichments, and third-party audits—all of which can alternately be achieved through Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certification. Additionally, activist groups are pushing for chicken to be sourced from flocks harvested using a multi-stage, controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) as part of the 2024 commitments, as well as from slower-growing or “healthier” breeds by 2026.
PREPARING FOR 2024 & BEYOND
Wayne Farms is prepared to help retailers and foodservice providers meet 2024 commitments. Additionally, for those customers who do not plan to sign-on to the class of 2024, they should know that Wayne Farms already goes above and beyond many National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guideline practices, with its own animal welfare requirements, for all chicken flocks—including those that are conventionally raised.
OFFERING CHOICE—BECAUSE EVERYONE DESERVES A PLACE AT OUR TABLE
GAP Step 2 Verified Care: To help customers meet 2024 commitments, Wayne Farms introduced Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 2 rated products at the end of 2017 under the NAKED TRUTH® Premium Chicken brand. Chickens for this brand are raised in chicken houses with fewer chickens (less dense), more light intensity, and environmental enrichments to further support natural behavior. Chickens are never, ever given antibiotics at any point in the process, and they are fed a vegetable and grain-based diet (no animal byproducts). Chickens for NAKED TRUTH are processed using a multi-stage, controlled atmosphere stunning system.
No Antibiotics Ever, Vegetable- and Grain-Based Diet: For customers who want additional attributes and requirements to conventionally raised, but without the additional cost of Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certification, Wayne Farms offers products from chickens raised never, ever having received antibiotics and fed a vegetable- and grain-based (no animal byproducts) diet. In addition to foodservice offerings, the Chef’s Craft® Gourmet retail brand features these attributes on-package.
Conventionally Raised: For those customers who want good quality chicken products at more competitive prices, Wayne Farms’ conventionally raised chicken products offer an excellent value. Animal welfare practices for conventionally raised flocks most often exceed National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines under Wayne Farms’ animal welfare program.
OUR ANIMAL WELFARE PROGRAM
In November of 2017, Wayne Farms established an Animal Care Advisory Committee (ACAC) to address an ongoing desire to improve its animal welfare practices, based on emerging discoveries, viewpoints and technologies. The responsibility of the committee is to shape and change Wayne Farms’ animal welfare program through proactive efforts to gather knowledge, based on sound science.
ANIMAL CARE ADVISORY (ACAC) COMMITTEE
Wayne Farms’ Animal Care Advisory Committee includes a cross-section of experts, from external to internal, and leadership sponsors for decision-making. The committee includes:
- An External Team made-up of poultry experts, academics and people who will look at practices with unbiased, fresh eyes and challenge thinking. Their purpose is to advise, guide, consult and provide input to the committee.
- A Cross-Functional, Internal Team, made-up of team members who manage and do the everyday work of animal care, as well as those responsible for communication.
- Executive Leadership team members who are decision makers and provide periodic approvals for checks and balances along the way.
WHAT GUIDES US
Our animal welfare journey is ongoing. We are not perfect; instead, we are committed to doing the right things and getting better. Because science is constantly providing us new information and technologies; and because stakeholder values are continuously evolving, we will never—and shouldn’t expect to—ever arrive at our final destination.
Serving as Guides Along the Way:
- Five Freedoms & 3 Circle Models of Animal Welfare
- Animal Care Advisory Committee & Our People
- New Learning and Technologies
- Customer and Consumer Need
In addition to the efforts of our Animal Care Advisory Committee and resources, we are acutely aware that implementation of our findings, improvements, and animal care management depend on the passion, commitment and follow-through of our Wayne Farms team members and farm partners. We ask our people to use four behaviors when engaging in our animal welfare journey: having a sense of urgency and passion for animal care; leading by setting a positive example; seeing continuous improvement as a way of life; and remembering that we’re all in this together.
MOST OF ALL
Our end goal is to do the right things for our chickens and share common values with those stakeholders who value care and commitment. We strive to be the Amazing Poultry Company for our stakeholders, not only as a producer of wholesome, quality chicken products, but also as good stewards of the chickens in our care—for all our offerings.
By offering a variety of choices that include animal welfare, versus an either-or scenario, we provide all customers the added value and assurance of responsible animal care. No matter the options that fit their business model best, all Wayne Farms products are sourced from chicken flocks, for which responsible care practices are verified and audited by the 3rd-party Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO)-certified auditors at least annually.
About the Author
Lexann Reischl is the founder and principal of Opera House Communications & Advocacy, LLC and has worked in agriculture and food production since 2007. With a natural curiosity and passion for storytelling, Lexann currently serves as a strategic communications consultant and guest blogger for chicken production leaders and to give the industry a voice.