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Animal well-being expert applauds pork industry’s PQA Plus (TM)

by 5m Editor
27 April 2007, at 9:06am

US - One of the nation’s leading experts in animal care and well-being is calling the new Pork Quality Assurance Plus™ program a good first step to addressing animal well-being concerns of the pork industry.

Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and the author of more than 300 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare and facility design, said the pork industry is diverse enough that it is difficult to develop guidelines for everyone. “But PQA Plus is a good first step for addressing well-being,” said Dr. Grandin, who added that she has used PQA Plus with other groups as an example of providing clear-cut guidelines on animal care and well-being.

PQA Plus, which will supplant the PQA Level III certification program on June 1, merges the food safety concepts of the PQA program with the animal well-being principles contained in the Swine Welfare Assurance Program, which was developed by animal care experts and producers through the Pork Checkoff.

“The animal care and well-being component of PQA Plus addresses 12 areas that affect the well-being of animals on-farm,” said Dale Norton, chairman of the animal welfare committee for the National Pork Board and a producer from Michigan. “Housing, air quality, caretaker training and other factors all contribute to the animals’ well-being. PQA Plus is not a housing program, nor is it a caretaker training program, PQA Plus tries to address all the factors that contribute to an animal’s well-being on the farm.”

PQA Plus has three distinct steps: An individual certification through education; an assessment of sites where pigs are being raised; and an independent third-party audit component to assure that the continuous improvement goals of the program are being achieved.

A nationwide network of trained and certified advisors will work with pork producers to help them achieve PQA Plus certification. The certification will be good for three years, when it must be renewed. Producers currently certified in PQA Level III need not obtain PQA Plus certification until their current status has expired.

PQA Plus is the result of work by a coalition of participants from throughout the pork chain, including producers, packers/processors, retail food stores and restaurants. The coalition had begun meeting in 2005 to discuss a solution to the animal well-being issue that would be acceptable to all parts of the chain. That solution turned out to be PQA Plus. The audit provision of the new program was reviewed by a technical committee that included Dr. Grandin, Dr. Janice Swanson of Kansas State University, Dr. Ed Pajor of Purdue University and Dr. Lisa Tokach, a veterinarian practicing in Kansas and past president of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

The official launch of PQA Plus will occur during World Pork Expo in Des Moines June 7-9. Questions about the program can be addressed to the Pork Checkoff Service Center (1-800-456-PORK). Additional information also is available at pork.org under the For Producers tab.

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Pork importers also invest a comparable amount. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health and pork safety. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-PORK or check the Internet at pork.org.

5m Editor