Maple Leaf commits to improving conditions for animals in food supply chain

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MFI) says it’s launching what it calls an “animal care commitment” designed to improve conditions and reduce discomfort for animals in the food supply chain.

The company says it plans to require its pork and poultry operations to undergo an annual independent audit by company-approved auditors and quickly correct any deficiencies.

It will also seek to further enhance approaches to pain management and potential alternatives to procedures such as surgical castration and tail docking.

Maple Leaf says it will continue to reduce or eliminate antibiotic use across the supply chain, while recognizing the importance of providing the medication necessary to sick or injured animals.

The company also says it will advocate strongly for enhancements to on-farm poultry audits, including increased transparency and comprehensive annual independent audits.

“As the largest meat protein company in Canada, we hold ourselves to a high standard of animal care,” company president Michael McCain said Friday in a news release.

“This requires building a strong culture of animal well-being, advancing continuous improvement within Maple Leaf and across the industry, and holding ourselves accountable for performance and progress.”

Animal welfare group Mercy For Animals lauded Maple Leaf for announcing new guidelines for its pork and poultry facilities.

“Most notable is the policy’s pioneering commitment to implementing controlled atmosphere stunning at all fresh poultry facilities — a move that will spare millions of birds from the horrific suffering caused by shackling, shocking, and slitting the throats of conscious animals,” the group said in a statement.

Mercy For Animals released hidden-camera video at a Maple Leaf Foods-owned hatchery that showed chicks ground alive in macerators and workers punching, throwing and kicking turkeys, that resulted in a supplier being convicted of animal cruelty and fined $5,600.