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Consumer Confidence and Benefits of Third Party Audits
Dr. Ruth Woiwode discusses the benefits of 3rd party auditing in livestock production.
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Welcome, my name's Ruth Woiwode.
I'm an assistant professor
in the animal science department at UNL.
My focus is behavior and wellbeing.
I'll be talking to you today about consumer confidence
and the benefits of third-party audits.
And I'm really excited to be joining long time friends
and colleagues in both the industry and academia.
And I think that we have a really exciting lineup
of speakers and topics.
So, I hope you'll find it really useful and engaging
Before I get into my topic.
I just want to take a few moments
and tell you a little bit about my background
and experience as it pertains
to the topic we're discussing today.
I completed my graduate work at Colorado State University
under the advisorship of Dr. Temple Grandin,
where I led research focused on industry compliance
with the beef quality assurance feed yard assessment
for cattle handling.
Effects of routine handling
on performance of fed cattle
and the effects of zilpaterol hydrochloride
on behavior and mobility of feedlot steers.
Following that, I also worked
as a postdoctoral researcher
at New Mexico State University's
Clayton Livestock Research Center,
where I studied the interaction between behavior,
welfare and nutrition of feedlot cattle,
particularly in receiving.
From there, I was hired by Food Safety Net Services
to expand their audit portfolio
by adding on farm audit services.
As the manager of livestock audit services,
my role included training auditors,
business development obviously,
providing routine humane handling training
for employees of federally inspected slaughter plants,
as well as mandatory training following
regulator enforcement action by USDA.
So, if a plant had been shut down
for a humane handling violation,
as part of the process to reinstatement,
USDA mandated a third party training
which I provided in many cases.
My industry service includes serving
on PAACO Feedlot Curriculum Committee.
Serving on the North American Meat Institute,
Animal Welfare Committee
and the Animal AG Alliance's Issues Management Committee,
as well as serving as editor for the Sheep Care Guide
published by the American Sheep Industry Association,
to name a few.
This is a brief roadmap
of where we'll go in the discussion today,
starting with a background
in history of animal welfare auditing
where it had its origins
and how it's advanced and progressed,
how auditors are certified,
what audits are certified,
benefits of the third-party audits,
auditing in 2020 and beyond.
And we'll wrap up with an opportunity for questions.
When we talk about the origin of animal welfare auditing,
the conversation can occur
even without the recognition that this process
had its roots in the meat industry.
The meat industry led on farm
and animal welfare auditing dating back to 1991
where the American Meat Institute encouraged its members
to participate in voluntary audits of animal welfare.
In 1999 was when Dr. Temple Grandin wrote
the first guidelines for auditing animal welfare
and slaughter plants.
That was and became the basis for the AMI guidelines.
and later the meat plant of audit.
In 1996, the USDA requested a survey
of federally inspected meat plants
in order to make recommendations for alternative systems
and approaches that ensure humane handling.
Dr. Temple Grandin conducted that survey using
the guidelines that she'd written in 1991
with some additional measures included.
And of 48 plants that were surveyed
that provided a baseline of a scoring
objectively animal-based measures.
And in 1997, Temple publishes those baseline results
with the addition of animal scoring
being included in the Meat Institute guidelines.
Additional publications from those findings
of the USDA survey were published leading
to an increased focus and emphasis
on third-party auditing of animal welfare
in the slaughter plant.
In 1999, McDonald's initiated the restaurant audits
and were soon joined by Wendy's and Burger King
in what became the inaugural audit of the restaurant.
If you're familiar with third party audits
and animal welfare audits,
then you've most likely heard the term PAACO.
PAACO stands for
Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization.
And PAACO is considered to be the gold standard
for auditor certification and certification of audits.
The animal welfare auditor certifications
that PAACO currently offers
are the meat plant animal welfare audit certifications,
poultry welfare, swine welfare,
dairy welfare and feedlot welfare.
The meat plant animal welfare auditor certification
was the first animal welfare auditor certification
to be offered through PAACO corresponding
with the Meat Institute's guidelines
for animal care and handling
and the audit of the spotter plants concurrently.
That that was the first audit
that was also certified by PAACO.
Though PAACO is certainly recognized
as the gold standard for auditor certification.
What's important to note is that not all companies
or customers or audit schemes
may require auditors to be PAACO certified.
Again, while it's recognized as the gold standard,
there are many auditors
that are not necessarily PAACO certified.
It's certainly grown in awareness
and certainly adoption.
And in many cases it is a requirement
of a customer or a scheme.
USDA is even requiring PAACO certification
of consultants who are providing training
or doing assessments in federally inspected meat plants
or slaughter plants.
When we talk about the audits
that are certified by PAACO
as I mentioned on the previous slide,
the North American Meat Institute animal handling guidelines
was the very first audit that was recognized
and certified by PAACO.
And not necessarily in order of appearance,
but I've also included a list of the most widely recognized
other audits that are certified by PAACO,
including the Common Swine Industry Audit
that was developed by the Pork Board.
The Validus Animal Welfare Review
and Validus has a dairy welfare audit
as well as a swine welfare audit.
The Dean Foods DairyWell Audit,
National Chicken Council guidelines
for broilers and breeders,
FACTA, which is a farm animal care and training,
the humane certified audit for broilers,
Perdue USDA process verified program for broilers
and the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Program,
as well as the Wildlife and Rodent Control audit,
which is referred to often as a pest audit.
And finally Fur Commission USA audit of mink.
To reiterate, this list focuses on audits
that are certified by PAACO.
There are countless additional industry standards
and audit that are not necessarily PAACO certified
and many companies, some of which you see listed
have developed individualized standards
for a particular customer or customer group
and many animal welfare audits occur
to customer specifications.
And what the third-party process does
is substantiate the claims that are made
even in those individualized programs
through third-party review.
You heard me use the term gold standard as it pertains
to PAACO certification of auditors and audits.
PAACO has set some parameters for other qualification,
as well as a process even to apply
to attend auditor training courses.
That process includes vetting
to ensure that a qualified individuals
are attending auditor training courses,
as well as preventing attendance from activists
or those who might have less
than genuine intentions for the industry.
But those attending auditor training courses
have to be able to demonstrate a certain number
or combination of number of years
of industry experience and education.
After having completed the auditor training course,
the potential auditor must achieve a minimum passing score
on a written exam following the course
and then in a specified time period they
also complete a minimum of two shadow audits
with a qualified or certified PAACO auditor.
Now, many other industries mirror this approach,
the Farm Animal Care Program being one of them
where there is a set requirement for industry
and production experience at the second party level
with an even greater requirement
at the third-party level.
So, in addition to the PAACO requirements
for auditor qualification,
many other firms
or customers may impose additional requirements
or qualifications above and beyond those.
Food Safety Net Services for example,
viewed the PAACO requirements as entry level requirements
and all animal welfare auditors employed
by Food Safety Net Services are PACCO certified.
Food Safety Net Services operates under an ISO certified
and third-party audited quality management system
that includes a huge dedication to calibration
so that there's a consistent standard of performance
that is met by each and every auditor.
And that's accomplished through extensive
internal shadows to ensure calibration
so that that quality and consistency standard is met.
For example, with the Farm Animal Care Program,
which was one of the main programs
that I managed over the last four years.
The average number of internal audits
that we conducted before internally qualifying
an auditor to perform solo audits was 12 shadow audits.
So, that gives you a frame of reference
when it comes to the background and qualifications
and the process for an auditor
to become certified and further qualified.
When discussing the benefits of third-party audit
it's also important to make a distinction
between internal audits or review
and external independent or third-party audit
or review of a program.
The independent and external review by a third-party
is of huge benefit when compared with internal review
because of the known potential for bias.
So, as we talk about each of the individual benefits
of third-party audit as I've illustrated here,
each one of these benefits both individually
and then collectively help drive
consumer confidence overall in the process.
The data that is captured through third-party audit
is invaluable in being able to track progress
to certain targets over time
and as facilities demonstrate improvement
and progress over time,
that illustrates to consumers both that certain targets
are being monitored and monitored consistently
and that site management is committed
to improving animal welfare,
that's demonstrated through progress over time
By participating in certain animal care programs
or in some cases simply being audited
by an independent third-party results in eligibility,
in some cases for premium pricing of product.
Consumers in certain cases indicate a willingness
to pay for the assurance associated
with some of the animal care practices
associated with some animal care programs.
Certain animal care programs include
a structure and mechanism
for managing crisis and crisis response.
In this instance, when I refer to crisis,
always speaking most specifically
about animal activist activity.
The Farm Animal Care Program is one of the programs
that has the most structured mechanism
for both reporting allegations
or concerns around animal abuse or neglect,
as well as investigating those claims,
probation of sites
and then a pathway to return
to good standing using third-party monitoring
as a key component of the process.
And we'll talk about that a little bit more later,
but each of these elements also individually reduce risk.
And when we talk about reducing risk
when it pertains to animal welfare
and the third party-audit process,
the review by an independent outside party
helps identify gaps in both management practices
and in some cases,
training or even breakdown in animal care.
And identifying those gaps early on
helps reduce the risk of future non-conformity's
with a program and circle back to tracking progress,
improving welfare over time.
So, when we talk about the independent review
of a facilities animal welfare program.
When internal review is conducted by an establishment,
the internal review inherently holds
a greater risk of missing details,
simply because of the familiarity
that the internal personnel have with a site.
An outside party provides both a fresh perspective
because there's essentially a learning curve
during that visit where the auditor's required
to learn as much as possible about the operation
to familiarize themselves with it
so that they understand that operation.
The unbiased opinion is invaluable
because of freedom from bias.
Ideally, the auditor has no investment
in any particular outcome.
Additionally, the third-party auditor
is calibrated to the standard more highly
in many cases than internal personnel may be.
For example, a PAACO certified auditor
is also required to earn a certain number
of continuing education credits
prior to the renewal of their certification
that requires them to stay current
in the industry standard.
But in addition to that,
many firms require annual training
and then calibration that occurs annually
or even more frequently.
And in the example of Food Safety Net Services,
there are two main calibration events
that occur annually with monthly auditor staff meetings,
where calibration is the focus.
As well, One of the things
that is perhaps a little unique
about Food Safety Net's approach to calibration
is the use of technical review,
both at the peer level and at the management level,
as well as a tertiary level of review
that would be a QA review.
But when auditors provide peer review,
that's just one more way that they can calibrate
and make sure that the team
is consistently evaluating the standard the same way.
And also writing it clearly,
writing up findings in a clear and concise manner.
That occurs essentially on a daily basis.
An auditor should be free from conflict of interest.
Most auditors are required to disclose
any potential conflict of interest.
And in the case where they're employed
by Food Safety Net Services
and had potentially worked for a site previously
that was scheduled for an audit,
that site would then be assigned to someone else
that does not have a conflict of interest,
either potential or perceived.
An auditor should not receive any benefit
based on the outcome of the audit.
That's how the third-party unbiased perspective
is obtained or achieved.
It's virtually impossible to discuss the benefits
and value of third-party auditing
without talking about audit data
and how we track progress over time.
For purposes of illustration,
I like to refer to the Meat Institute guidelines
and the meat plant audit,
simply because we have the most data
from an industry perspective to date
surrounding that particular instrument.
The animal based measures that I have listed here
were included in the 1999 audits.
They were not part of the original guidelines
written in 1991,
but were developed out of the USDA audits
that occurred in 1996 and moving forward.
So, just so that we're familiar
with these categories for the purposes of illustration,
the target for effective stunning
essentially means that the method of stunning
must be applied correctly
and must be effective the first attempt.
And that target is 95%.
So, for a facility to receive an excellent score
they must achieve a 95%
or higher rating in this category.
Bleed rail insensibility
has a zero tolerance threshold,
meaning that first of all,
we would result in regulatory action
if an animal were to be observed on the rail
demonstrating signs of sensibility
or even return to sensibility,
therefore the audit instrument does reflect that
and also has zero tolerance for that category.
The category of slips and falls.
The target is 2%.
So, 2% of all of the sample
is the maximum number of animals that can fall.
Each of those criteria
are standalone categories for audit failure.
So, a facility could have a perfect score for studying,
a perfect score for bleed rail in sensibility
and could exceed the target for falls
and fail the audit.
The target for vocalization
is not a standalone pass-fail category per se.
An electric prod use is an interesting target
because it's so high compared to some of the others.
Electric prod use or use of prod is acceptable
and up to 25% of the population scored
during an audit.
That target reflects the audit having
to be applied in both fed beef,
as well as cold beef.
The category of a act of abuse and neglect
is obviously a standalone pass-fail category
and it's not scored in the same way.
There's not a target, a numeric target,
but if an act of abuse or neglect
is observed at any point on the facility
during the audit that result in failure.
And those acts of abuse and neglect are quantified,
they include hitting, kicking,
the application of the electric prod
to sensitive areas,
such as the ears or nose or eyes or genitalia.
And access to water is also monitored.
Per federal guidelines water must be available
to animals in holding pens prior to slaughter.
So, first let me just orient you to this graph.
On the left access what's represented
is the percentage of slaughter plants
that met the target.
So, what I just described,
what some of the targets are.
I don't have all of the criteria depicted here,
but I wanted to illustrate the immense progress
that was made between the first and second audit
for you to see that visually.
The blue line represents effective stunning.
Only 30% of plants audited in 1996
were able to make that 95% target.
So, 95% of all animals stunned during the audit.
Have to be stunned on the first attempt.
By 1999, 90% of plants audited were able
to make that 95% target.
And that number has continued to increase since
so much so that by the 20th anniversary revision
of the meat plant guidelines,
the Meat Institute guidelines,
that target finally increased from 95 to 96%.
The orange line represents insensibility on the bleed rail.
And in 1996, only 90% of plants audited were able
to do past that target.
And remember, that's a zero tolerance category,
meaning that a single animal out of 100 animals sample
that shows signs of return to sensibility
on the rail will result in an audit failure.
By 1999, 97% of plant audited were able
to meet that target.
In all of the plants that I personally have audited
and trained in over the last number of years,
I have not had a failed audit due to this category.
That gives you a little bit of perspective
on the improvement that we've seen
in this particular category.
The yellow line represents vocalization.
And in 1996, only 43% of plants audited met
that excellent target for vocalization
or 95% of the animals did not vocalize.
By 1999, that number had improved immensely.
And 95% of the plant audited were able
to meet that target.
This is just one simple representation
of how progress to a particular standard
can be tracked and measured over time.
And it's important to do this
with our audit data and findings
because we manage what we measure.
I can't tell you how many times
that in having conversations with a facility,
their self-assessment tends
to typically overestimate their performance.
And by that, I mean that they would estimate,
90% of the time we meet this target.
And in reality, they're much further
away from the target than they estimate.
And that typically is because
they're not measuring that category consistently.
So, how this progress has occurred
then goes back to...
The burden does fall on site personnel
for ongoing monitoring.
And doing internal assessments are key
to be able to achieve this type of progress.
But again, it's understanding the targets,
how they're scored and consistently measuring them,
identifying issues that might contribute
to poor scores, poor outcomes
and implementing strategies,
both handling strategies,
management strategies onsite
that can influence some of these outcomes.
And that's the beauty of many of the audits
that are implemented in the industry
is that they're outcome-based.
Meaning they look at an outcome
and targets are set based on outcomes.
They're not prescriptive in management practices
or how those targets are achieved,
allowing individual management practices
and adjustment on a case by case basis
to be able to realistically
and practically meet those targets.
I mentioned a little while ago
that one of the benefits of third-party audits
is crisis management.
And I wanna talk about that just a little.
This isn't necessarily the case in every standard
or audit or animal care management program,
but I like to talk about the Farm Animal Care Program
when we talk about this
because of some of the really visible scrutiny
that the program and the dairy industry for example
has received in the form of activist activity.
On the Farm Animal Care Program
actually includes a reporting process
and an anonymous reporting mechanism
whereby allegations of animal abuse or neglect
can be reported to National Milk Producers Federation.
The program includes a structure for all of this
and describes how allegations
will be investigated by an independent third-party.
The willfulness treatment protocol
also includes criteria and definition
for a site being placed on probation
when abuse or neglect or unacceptable conditions
are substantiated through the third-party process.
That particular process also has a pathway
for sites to return to good standing
if required progress is made.
So, based on the findings from the third-party
and the action prescribed,
if a site is meeting those targets,
they begin to progress to a return to good standing.
And this is all clearly spelled out in the program.
However, third-party monitoring is the key.
And what's really important is having conversations
about these type of activities
because in my experience in having these conversations,
both with producers, consumers and the general public
that are not necessarily consumers
as each of those individuals understands the process better.
There is increasing buy-in on the part of the producer,
increased confidence on part of the consumer
and certainly increased awareness
on the part of the general public
that may not be consumers.
And it's these types of conversations
that are crucial to ensuring
the future of animal agriculture
in a sustainable society, I'm convinced.
And I've seen that as a big part of my role
to this point in time.
As we talk about the activist activity
as we've seen it evolve over the last number of years,
it's become increasingly strategic and focused
with an emphasis on supply chain connection,
as well as highlighting weak areas of programs.
A misconception is that some of the activist activity
highlights simply bad producers
or the lower percentile, if you will of production.
And as is the case with the Fair Oaks cases,
that's not necessarily the case.
That particular supply chain was identified and targeted
and based on brand awareness
and place in the market, if you will.
For example, in a market where milk consumption
on the average was on the decline,
Fairlife product through innovation and marketing
was on the incline on target to be a $1 billion brand
at the time of the activity.
In the supply chain captive with the Fairlife products
really represents the upper percentile
of structured program for employee care
and management and training,
as well as animal care and management.
What's important to point out is that
even in that upper percentile,
gaps in the program were identified
and those were leveraged in that activist activity.
For example, young stock in the dairy farm program
was not monitored or evaluated
to the same level of scrutiny
that mature lactating animals were.
And it wasn't difficult for the activist group
to identify that as a gap and highlight it,
they followed animals through transportation.
They watched some of the handling practices
and did capture whether it was staged or encouraged
or some other type of condition,
they captured behavior and handling that was unacceptable.
And for a program to have credibility,
how these events are handled is critical.
At a time like this is not a time
where being relaxed is advised.
So, participating in third-party audits
may reduce risk partly by the early identification
of some of these gaps
or other areas where attention is needed,
whether that's improving the employee training program,
whether it's revising some of the animal care practices
to ensure that the program is being consistently followed
or whether there's a true animal care issue.
So, when we talk about auditing
and tracking changes in terms of animal welfare
and the progress that we've seen there.
Particularly, this year in 2020,
it's been interesting to mark the changes
to the third-party audit process due to the pandemic.
We've experienced a reduction in travel,
fewer in-person onsite audits.
In many cases, those have been
at least partially replaced
or replaced in the interim by a remote auditing.
And remote auditing can occur a couple of different ways.
It can occur by live video,
where that can be facilitated by onsite staff,
even through the use of a phone camera
or using permanent or temporary equipment
that can be fixed onsite or worn
or carried by audit staff.
So, something a little bit more permanent
and higher quality than phone camera, for example.
Random review of live video feed is also utilized
and this would be remote,
but it would be a random sampling of that live video.
So, picking a random interval to scan
and review video feed is also used.
To this point in time,
it's been used to enhance onsite auditing
and we've seen an increase in that type of auditing.
And I anticipate that that will only continue to increase,
but per the installation
of permanent remote video audit systems,
that also include third party review just as I described,
it's desirable because increased monitoring as possible,
meaning that a review of the practices
can occur more frequently without
the expense associated with travel
and also a reduction in the perceived auditor effect
or the idea that staff will behave better
in the presence of a visitor or a third party auditor.
All of that to say that some of these changes
that we've experienced in 2020
are here to stay on some level.
This isn't something that I envision
will ever be exactly like it was prior
to March of 2020.
So, understanding that
and working with a qualified firm
to help implement effective audit strategies,
both internal audit, as well as third-party audit.
Those are key to a strong, successful audit program.
Some of the additional benefits of remote auditing
as we think about the longterm
is the reduced risk of biosecurity breakdown,
both human and fomite,
the potential of introducing disease,
either on a vehicle or on the auditor or equipment
if we're on site physically less.
Physically we've reduced the biosecurity risk
that an auditor does pose to the site.
We've reduced human health risk,
both to the auditor and to the site personnel.
I touched a little bit on the reduction in travel costs.
So, one of the desirable features is again,
increasing the frequency of visits
or rather audits and data collection
without the significant cost of travel each time.
Some of the notable limitations include
the ability for remote video audit equipment
to be manipulated and controlled potentially onsite
or during an audit.
Connectivity or resolution issues.
So, technical issues.
Most of those are driven either by equipment quality
or a reliable internet connection.
But one of the things that I'm perhaps
most concerned about is what I would call
the lack of 360 degree awareness
or the limitations that are imposed by the equipment.
For example, the viewfinder,
because of all of the human senses
being in play during an in-person onsite audit.
An auditor may be aware of noise hundreds of yards away
and their attention may be drawn
to an event that might not otherwise be captured.
And the particular camera angle,
if they're auditing remotely.
When evaluating certain criteria,
depending on the quality of equipment, depth perception
and a true three dimensional perspective
can also be limited in my experience.
So, in some cases, because of lighting and angle
assessing body condition accurately can be a challenge,
But certainly not one that can be overcome.
So, we've talked about some of the origin
of animal welfare auditing.
We've talked about the benefits of third-party on it
and we've talked about some of the changes
that we've seen to the third-party audit process,
both over time,
but also due to the unusual circumstances seen in 2020.
And in summary,
what I want to leave with you
is that takeaway about the benefits of auditing.
How the third-party process contributes
to consumer confidence,
that findings substantiate good practices.
And when non-conformity's are identified,
many animal care programs include a structure
for correcting those non-conformity's
and a path to reinstatement in good standing
for facilities that have had non-conformity's.
The findings of third-party audits help document
and measure progress and improvement.
And because of those key benefits,
it's my opinion that we're not going
to see a decrease in auditing as we move forward.
I think it's very much here to stay.
What I think we can expect is that it will continue
to evolve and integrate technology
in new and different ways.
Though I don't anticipate that that technology
will fully replace human involvement.
Certainly not in the short-term
because of some of the limitations
that we see with the application of technology.
And with that, I welcome your questions.
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