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The American Meat Institute Foundation (AMIF) has unveiled the 2012 Recommended Animal Care & Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide, which now in its 15th year. Authored by famed animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, the audit guide has changed the way the meatpacking industry handles animals and gauges animal welfare based on simple core criteria.
The audit originated with a 1996 report that Grandin wrote for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which she hypothesized that animal welfare didn’t have to be subjective, but could instead be evaluated objectively according to numeric criteria. Washington, D.C.-based AMIF then asked Grandin to author an audit based on this concept, and the original version was issued a year later. By 1999, major restaurant chains began requiring audits as a condition of doing business, and other companies soon followed.
Currently, an estimated 95 percent of cattle, pigs and sheep are processed in plants that use the audit program, according to AMIF, which adds that the guidelines and audit have also been adopted in other countries and are a major part of well-known humane certification and labeling programs such as American Humane Certified and Certified Humane.
In 2010, AMIF added a transportation audit to the plant audit program. The 2012 guidelines fine-tune the program based on two years of field use, with modifications to the previous edition detailed in the foreword to the latest edition. The 2012 Recommended Animal Care & Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide is available free online.
In an address to the American Animal Science Association last month, Grandin referred to the audit program as “the most important accomplishment of my animal welfare career,” because of its wide acceptance.
“In 1999 when the audit program really took off, I saw more improvements than I’d seen in the previous 25 years,” she noted. “Plants knew what they had to do, that had to hit clear numbers, much like speed limits. They had a clear goal, and they learned to hit it. The AMI guidelines have been a success because they are simple to use and they are objective. Assessing animal welfare in meat plants is no longer a matter of opinion, but rather is clear and objective.”
“Dr. Grandin’s unique insights into animal welfare and objective evaluation of animal welfare have helped this industry make dramatic progress in the way we handle the livestock we process for food,” observed AMIF Chairman J. Patrick Boyle. “Our 20-year partnership with her has benefited our industry immeasurably and the millions of livestock who whose welfare is enhanced by her approach.”
An overview of the new guidelines is on the agenda at the AMI Animal Care & Handling Conference, which is scheduled for Oct. 17-18 in Kansas City, Mo.