New Tyson office to handle animal-wellness concerns

SPRINGDALE, AK: Tyson Foods has opened an office of Animal Well-Being, seeking to assure retail and food-service customers as well as consumers that it takes humane animal handling seriously.

SPRINGDALE, AK: Tyson Foods has opened an office of Animal Well-Being, seeking to assure retail and food-service customers as well as consumers that it takes humane animal handling seriously.

Animal-rights groups fault large American meat and poultry processors for what they see as inhumane handling of animals. These groups have protested in public for years about the plight of animals raised by companies like Tyson.

While the office should help the company's image with its customers, Ed Nicholson, Tyson director of media and community relations, said it also will help with consumers concerned about animal handling.

"The people from PETA are not going to be satisfied unless we go out of business," he said of extreme animal-rights groups. But there are consumers less radical than PETA who are still concerned about animal-handling practices. Tyson should see some positive PR benefits with them through the establishment of this new office, Nicholson said.

He added that the new office will oversee audits of animal-handling practices and make them available to customers on request, but likely wouldn't publicly disclose audit results. The office will also oversee training and records keeping regarding handling techniques at the company.

Veterinarian Dr. Kellye Pfalzgraf, who oversaw a similar office for IBP, a major meat processor Tyson bought in 2001, will head the new office. It is located at company headquarters in Arkansas.

"With every part of our business we have very compelling reasons to make sure our

animals are treated humanely," said Nicholson.

Retail and food-service clients are increasingly asking to either audit animal-handling procedures at processors such as Tyson or asking processors to comply with humane handling guidelines. High-end grocer Whole Foods announced such a policy in October, for example, after being lobbied for two years by the US offshoot of a British animal-rights group, Viva!USA.

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