No matter the production system deployed, the health and welfare of our animals remains our priority and we are committed to providing proper nutrition and full-service veterinary care to our livestock and poultry.
Assessing the daily needs and health status of the animals under our care is essential to ensuring their well-being.
Our family poultry farm partners are required to inspect the houses and chickens at least twice a day. They check for housing conditions such as ventilation, air quality, water, feed lines and bedding material quality, and closely observe eye health and lameness. Any chickens unable to thrive are humanely euthanized using an American Veterinary Medical Association or equivalent approved technique, such as cervical disarticulation. Pilgrim’s technicians also work with each farm family, visiting regularly and remaining on call for the farm 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to maintain the health of our flocks. Our technicians inspect both the farm and the chickens during their visit, monitoring health factors such as eye and leg health, mortality, house and farm conditions, rodent and/or pest issues, proper ventilation, ammonia level, litter condition, adequacy of feed intake and water supply. Pilgrim’s technicians not only monitor the farm’s health plan, but they also share best practices on how to raise healthier chickens.
At Pilgrim’s UK, within our higher welfare hog supply chain, we make sure that farm partners within our supply chain thoroughly understand our animal welfare requirements and we regularly support them through farm visits and with training on animal husbandry, welfare and health by our own team of experienced field staff and vets. We also host quarterly update meetings with our farm partners, inclusive of training initiatives.
Providing the proper nutrition to maintain appropriate body condition and optimize growth is critical to the overall health of our livestock and poultry. Our team of Ph. D. and expert nutritionists formulates diets specific to the chicken’s or hog’s specific requirements and adjusts diets, daily if necessary, to optimize health and prevent nutritional deficiencies and digestive disorders. We manufacture our own feed in company-owned and contracted feed mills, using a proprietary mixture that includes corn, soybean meal and other grains. Our team of qualified animal nutritionists also purchase, formulate and provide our Pilgrim’s vegetarian-fed poultry supply chains with an all cereal based diet, which is part of our overall Pilgrim’s product category offerings. Feed used within the Pilgrim’s UK higher welfare hog supply chain is produced to Pilgrim’s UK specifications by approved partner feed mills. Growth promoting hormones are not used in chicken or hog production in the U.S. or U.K.
Our licensed veterinarians establish and monitor all health and vaccine protocols and follow all government regulations. Our veterinarians perform routine health checks and are available for consultation on any issue. Each facility has a written health plan developed in consultation with our veterinarians and includes specifications regarding management, vaccination schedules, health monitoring and treatment, mortality and morbidity monitoring and measures taken to prevent disease transmission. In the U.S., our veterinarians are USDA accredited poultry specialists who have additional specialty post-doctorate master’s degrees in poultry production medicine and are board certified specialists recognized by the American College of Poultry Veterinarians.
Pilgrim’s does not perform physical alterations to any of our broiler chickens. In the Pilgrim’s supply chain, we only purchase roosters and breeders from breeding companies that have strict protocols in place to minimize stress related to these procedures. At Pilgrim’s UK, routine tail docking is not performed and is only permitted with veterinary approval, while castration is not permitted. Pilgrim’s UK continues to lead the industry in research to advance animal welfare. For example, our current research includes a project examining pig behavior and its impact upon tail biting. The objective is to understand more about causal factors associated with tail biting and how tail docking can be reduced.
Each Pilgrim’s facility has a comprehensive biosecurity program designed and implemented to prevent the introduction of infectious diseases to our livestock and poultry through human and animal vectors or contaminated equipment. Our biosecurity protocol addresses every aspect of our facilities: feed mill operations, feed delivery, transportation, vaccination and health management, visitors and auditors. All team members and family farm partners are trained according to our biosecurity protocols, and all visitors and vendors must be prescreened and approved before arriving at any of our locations. Sign-in logs are also required and maintained at all locations.
At Pilgrim’s, all antibiotics are used under the supervision of licensed and accredited Doctors of Veterinary Medicine and only for the purposes of preventing, controlling or treating disease, rather than growth promotion or feed efficiency. Pilgrim’s is focused on producing healthy animals through good hygiene and husbandry practices. Our antibiotic policy also requires written veterinary permission before the use of any antibiotics, diligent record-keeping and tracking of all antibiotic use and training programs for Pilgrim’s team members. Training helps guarantee compliance with our comprehensive health and disease-prevention programs, including animal husbandry, hygiene, monitoring and vaccination.
Any use of antibiotics is strictly governed by national regulations and requires authorization by the overseeing Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or veterinary surgeon who care for the livestock or poultry. Any medication used is licensed by the FDA or U.K. Veterinary Medicines Directorate and undergoes intense scrutiny before being approved for use.
In the U.S., Pilgrim’s has been antibiotic free in all company hatcheries since 2016 and is fully compliant with FDA Guidance 209 and 213 Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule. Any antibiotic use is under the strict guidance of the company’s licensed, USDA accredited and board-certified veterinarians and is strictly for disease prevention, control or treatment. The Pilgrim’s antibiotic policy is reviewed annually.
For Pilgrim’s Mexico, the use of antibiotics is supervised by veterinarians. For traceability and control purposes, farms keep a record of the medication, dosage and application period, to meet the withdrawal times established by the General Directorate of Animal Health, which is part of SENASICA. All antibiotics used are registered by the General Directorate of Animal Health.
In Europe, records of medications used on farms are inspected by the auditors of the Red Tractor Scheme and by local authority animal health inspectors as legally required. In addition, Pilgrim’s Moy Park has an Antimicrobial Stewardship Forum focused on the education of poultry producers in antimicrobial resistance and best practices to reduce antimicrobial usage. The Antimicrobial Stewardship Forum collects comprehensive data to provide the poultry industry and regulators a clear picture of poultry-usage trends. Pilgrim’s Moy Park also established a Food Safety Forum to ensure chickens are healthy and products are safe. These forums include external experts who provide farmers with the latest scientific developments.
Pilgrim’s UK has introduced an industry leading initiative in our own higher welfare farming supply chains to reduce the need for antibiotic use by improving pig management and health. We have voluntarily implemented stringent controls on the use of Critically Important Antibiotics (CIAs). Since implementing our antibiotic stewardship strategy in 2013, we have reduced use by more than 70%. Antibiotic usage within our own higher welfare supply chain has been consistently below the U.K. swine sector target for 2020. Pilgrim’s UK’s independent supply partners, as part of the UK swine industry, have achieved the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) target for the responsible use of antibiotics since its start in 2017.
As part of our long-standing commitment to safeguard the welfare of our animals, we do not withhold antibiotic treatment if a licensed veterinarian has determined it is the appropriate course of action. If antibiotic treatment is necessary, the animal is transitioned out of our antibiotic-free/NAE and organic programs and moved into our conventional programs while adhering to all appropriate antibiotic withdrawal times prior to processing. We will never allow a sick animal to suffer.
Some consumers have indicated a preference for eating chicken raised without the use of antibiotics, and we believe it is our duty to offer responsible options to those consumers. As such, we are proud to offer traditional products, as well as antibiotic-free/NAE, vegetarian-fed and organic options for consumers to enjoy.
We are committed to reducing the use of antibiotics and have conducted extensive research to optimize management to reduce the incidence of disease and identify other products that promote and strengthen animal health and disease prevention.
While we continue to innovate, adopt new products and improve management to reduce the incidence of disease, it is important to remember that we cannot completely replace antibiotics and ionophores for the treatment and prevention of disease. Pilgrim’s veterinary and nutrition teams will continue to work closely with companies that produce these alternative compounds, as well as universities and private researchers to make sure we are on the leading edge of innovation as we continue to provide our customers with wholesome, healthy and nutritious food products.
We only raise and source livestock and poultry that have not been cloned, genetically modified or engineered. We are also aware that scientific developments which may benefit the health and well-being of livestock and poultry are ongoing and we will continue to review these in partnership with our customers.
For more information on the animal welfare requirements for our suppliers, please visit Our Suppliers.