As animal-welfare officials and plant operators with Cargill Meat Solutions work to install video cameras and software components to facilitate remote video auditing technology in their red-meat processing plants in North America, they say plans to incorporate the technology in the company’s four turkey operations later this year may pose some species-specific challenges.
In a March 26 presentation at the American Meat Institute’s Animal Care & Handling Conference Dr. Mike Siemens, Cargill’s director of animal welfare and husbandry, shared some of the lessons the company has learned since installing the hardware and software to allow for third-party, remote auditing of its animal welfare practices. Looking forward, the lessons reaped in implementing the system may not apply when the time comes to install similar systems at its poultry operations.
“We’re very fortunate on the red-meat side because we have the A.M.I. (Animal Handling) guidelines,” Mr. Siemens said. Applying the technology to its turkey slaughtering operations will “a little more of an evolutionary process,” he said, as there are poultry-specific guidelines to follow, but the company doesn’t have as much experience in terms of camera placement and what the auditing benchmarks should be. “Our turkey division will be later in the year,” said Mr. Siemens, adding that minor hiccups in the implementation shouldn’t come as a surprise.
In March of 2009, Cargill announced plans to incorporate the R.V.A. system in the slaughtering areas of its 10 North America-based beef plants using a Web-based system of software and remote auditing services from Mt. Kisco, N.Y.-based Arrowsight, Inc. The company then plans to incorporate the technology at its pork slaughtering plants, which Mr. Siemens says shouldn’t require as much installation time.
"The pork division has had cameras in their facilities for a long time so it’s more [a matter] of just connections,” he said. The installation at the turkey operations, however, may require extra time, as “we are kind of plowing newer ground on the turkey side,” said Mr. Siemens, adding the company will consult with auditing and handling experts and possibly customers to ensure the system exceeds their expectations. “That’s an evolutionary process.”
In terms of R.O.I., Mr. Siemens said remote video auditing of Cargill’s animal-welfare practices isn’t an investment that can be easily quantified, rather it is an investment in its brand protection. The technology is more like an insurance policy someone might have on their car in case of a wreck, he said. But, “We don’t want to have to cash in this insurance policy. We want to have this insurance policy to make sure we don’t have any wrecks,” he said.