"We're going to make sure they're doing the right thing which we believe they are, but this will validate or verify that they are... If we find anything that's not right, we'll be able to deal with it on the spot so that we don't have problems going on without our knowing about it," said Sara Lilygren, Senior Vice President of External Relations at Tyson Foods.
The company is launching FarmCheck Audit Program. Auditors will visit farms to check an animal's access to food and water, as well as proper human-animal interaction and worker training.
"We'll also work to find better ways together with farmers to create the healthiest, happiest animals out there and we're excited about making progress in all of those areas."
Lilygren wants her company delivering the best quality product, but not at the expense of animals' well-being.
"This goes beyond anything that even the critics have talked about because we're talking about all the species of animals, all points in their lives, we want to make sure they have good quality of life from birth until they come to our plants."
Melissa Owings, Board President of the Humane Society of the Ozarks, sees this program as a step in the right direction.
"Not only is it a good decision ethically, but I believe it's also a good business decision because I think there's a lot of people out there that care that the meat that they eat has been raised and treated in a humane and healthy manner."
The FarmCheck program allows for transparency in the raising of animals, and Lilygren believes Tyson Foods is leading the nation in producing responsibly.
"This program is definitely in response to what consumers have asked us for and what customers have asked us for, so this is very much driven by what people want to know and how much assurance people want to have that thing are being done right all throughout the chain."
Tyson Foods is currently pilot testing the auditing of pig farms and is hoping to start chicken and cattle farm audits by January 2014.
Several companies are commending Tyson Foods on its new approach to ensure the ethical treatment of animals, including Walmart.
"We applaud Tyson Foods for their strong commitment to improving the care for all animals in their supply chain. Tyson's FarmCheck program is aligned with Walmart's commitment to ethical sourcing, and shows leadership and dedication to addressing an issue all food suppliers and grocers face. We believe Tyson's plan is a good model, and we strongly encourage suppliers without such programs to look for ways they can improve the way food is produced. To make a difference in the food supply chain, we must all work together. From the farm to the fork, we are committed to working with our suppliers, NGOs, government leaders and others to ensure the food supply system in place today is safe, sustainable and affordable," said Jack Sinclair, the Executive Vice President of Food for Walmart.
Tyson Foods clarified that the FarmCheck program is not in response to the Humane Society of the United States' reports. The HSUS filed a complaint last May after an undercover investigation documented cruelty to pigs at a Wyoming pig farm that was supplying animals to Tyson, and released the following statement Friday.
"Audits are valuable if farm inspectors ask the right set of questions. We've not suggested that Tyson contractors are denying food to animals or intentionally abusing them, but that they are denying them enough space to even turn around. Tyson's announcement would mean more if the company was getting its pork from farmers who do not confine sows in crates that immobilize the animals," said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.