Health and Nutrition | JBS USA | Sustainability Report

Our Commitment

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.


Monitoring Livestock and Poultry Health

Assessing the daily needs and health status of the animals under our care is essential to ensuring their well-being. In our Australian cattle feedlots, this begins immediately when cattle arrive at our facilities, where they are assessed for their overall health and nutrition status. Upon arrival, cattle are provided an individual identification tag and are vaccinated. Cattle are checked daily for injury and illness by experienced pen riders. An animal that is identified as requiring additional care is moved to the hospital area, where it is provided treatment under the direction of our veterinarians and animal health technicians.

Our U.S. live pork operation staff and contract sow and finishing partners monitor the health of hogs daily. Production field managers and veterinarians provide support to each contract partner, visiting the farm regularly and remaining on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to maintain the health of our hogs. Field managers inspect the health and nutrition status of the pigs to make sure that our nutrition and health programs are implemented appropriately and that animals are in optimal condition.

Pilgrim’s 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 dislocation. 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; 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 family farm partners, inclusive of training initiatives.

Nutrition

Providing the proper nutrition to maintain appropriate body condition and optimize growth is critical to the overall health and welfare of our animals. Our team of Ph. D. and expert nutritionists formulate diets specific to the animal’s species and life stage and adjusts diets, daily if necessary, to optimize growth 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, ground hay (for cattle) and other grains.

Growth promoting hormones are not used in chicken or hog production in the U.S., U.K. or Australia.

Veterinary Care

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 that is developed in consultation with our veterinarians and includes specifications regarding animal management, vaccination schedules, animal-health monitoring and treatment, mortality and morbidity monitoring, and measures taken to prevent disease transmission.

Our veterinarians work to mitigate or eliminate pain for our animals. In the U.S., the procedures we perform on our hogs prevent injuries later in life and improve meat quality. Procedures include tail docking and castration, and are consistent with our animal welfare program. At JBS Australia feedlots, we work diligently to purchase cattle that have been pre-conditioned, which means that cattle have been previously castrated and disbudded (if necessary) at a young age, vaccinated and weaned before arriving at our feedlots.

Pilgrim’s does not perform physical alterations to any of our 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. 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.

Biosecurity

Each JBS USA livestock and poultry facility has a comprehensive biosecurity program that has been 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 contract 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.

Antibiotics

At JBS USA, 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. 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 JBS USA team members. Training helps guarantee compliance with our comprehensive health and disease-prevention programs, including animal husbandry, hygiene, monitoring and vaccination. We focus on producing healthy animals through good hygiene and husbandry practices.

JBS USA has always practiced the principles of judicious use regarding antibiotics; and given the increased concern regarding antimicrobial resistance, we have developed statements regarding antibiotic use for our cattle and pork supply chain partners in the U.S.:

As a leading provider of high-quality protein that is enjoyed by millions of consumers worldwide, JBS USA has a dual obligation of meeting the varying demands of our diverse customers, while promoting and ensuring the health and welfare of the cattle and hogs we purchase.

 JBS USA supports the judicious use of antibiotics under a valid VCPR (Veterinary Client Patient Relationship) and in accordance with the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Judicious Use of Antimicrobials Guidelines for cattle and the Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) Antibiotic Principles for hogs. JBS USA endorses the prevention of disease in cattle and hogs to effectively minimize the use of antibiotics, as described in the BQA and PQA+ programs. Comprehensive individual and herd health programs should be in place, including routine vaccination, balanced nutrition, and optimal animal husbandry. When illness occurs, documented disease detection and prevention programs should be employed under the guidance of licensed veterinarians.

Under a VCPR and in accordance with the guidelines and principles listed in BQA and PQA+, we support the use of medically important antibiotics in our cattle and hog supply under the supervision of licensed veterinarians for therapeutic use only, defined as prevention, control, and treatment of disease, rather than growth promotion or feed efficiency.

To ensure the responsible use of antibiotics and the welfare of the cattle and hogs we purchase, we require the following:

  • Compliance with the BQA Guidelines for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials for cattle and the PQA+ Antibiotic Principles for hogs, which includes a VCPR
  • Antibiotics classified as critical to human medicine are only used at therapeutic levels as prescribed by licensed veterinarians
  • Sub-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics is not practiced
  • Full compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Guidance 209 and 213 Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule. This guidance discontinues the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and requires veterinary oversight of all medically important antibiotics. All antibiotics listed by the FDA as important for human medicine require a VFD issued by a licensed veterinarian before they can be used in cattle or pig feed.

The farm and ranch partners who supply cattle and hogs guarantee compliance to these requirements by completing an affidavit at the point of sale and are randomly third-party audited, ensuring compliance with BQA and PQA+. Our process-verified programs (natural, organic, grass-fed, antibiotic free, etc.) may require additional compliance depending upon specific program requirements.  

JBS USA is a founding member of the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA) which is a public-private partnership advancing research in animal health and welfare as well as antimicrobial stewardship in agriculture.

This consortium was created by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to increase investment in research promoting the judicious use of antibiotics and improving animal health and wellness.

At Pilgrim’s, all antibiotics are used under the supervision of licensed and accredited Doctor 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. 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 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., Pilgrims’ has been antibiotic free in all company hatcheries since 2016 and is fully compliant with the FDA Guidance 209 and 213 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 these products, dosage and application period, to meet the withdrawal times established by the governing body, 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 the 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 and collects comprehensive data to give the poultry industry and regulators a clear picture of poultry-usage trends. Pilgrim’s Moy Park established a Food Safety Forum and Antibiotics Stewardship Forum, to ensure that our chickens are healthy and our products are safe. These forums include external experts who assist us 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 U.K. 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.

Alternatives To Antibiotics

We are committed to reducing the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production, and have conducted extensive research to optimize livestock and poultry 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. JBS USA 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 that we are on the leading edge of innovation as we continue to provide our customers with wholesome, healthy and nutritious meat and chicken products.

Cloning and Genetic Engineering

We only raise and source livestock and poultry that have not been cloned, genetically modified or engineered. However, 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 Suppliers.