As a leading provider of high-quality meat and chicken products enjoyed by millions of consumers around the world, JBS USA has a dual obligation to meet the varying demands of our diverse customer base while promoting and ensuring the health and welfare of our livestock and poultry. We are responsible with our grower partners for raising 100 percent of the poultry and approximately 15 percent of the hogs that supply our production facilities. We are committed to raising healthy animals by providing proper nutrition and full-service veterinary care.
No matter the production system deployed, the health and safety of our animals remain our priority. While it may be increasingly popular to leverage the inherent ethical obligation of proper animal husbandry as a marketing tool, at JBS USA, our values dictate that we implement humane animal welfare practices for one simple reason: it is the right thing to do.
Assessing the daily needs and health status of the animals under our care is essential to ensuring their well-being. In our cattle feedlots, this begins immediately when cattle arrive at our facilities, where they are assessed for their overall health and nutrition status. Once off the trailer, they are provided with immediate access to feed and water and allowed to rest. Before being sorted into groups and moved to their “home” pens, where they will live until they are transported to a production facility, they are weighed, provided an individual identification tag, vaccinated and, depending on their health status, may be provided with additional treatment, according to strict veterinary guidance, to make sure that they thrive in their new environments.
Once the animals are moved to their home pen, they are checked daily for injury and illness by experienced pen riders. An animal that is identified as requiring additional care is removed from the home pen to the hospital area, where it is provided treatment under the direction of our veterinarians and animal health technicians.
For JBS USA Live Pork, our operations and contract sow and finishing partners monitor the health of hogs daily. JBS USA Live Pork production field staff and veterinarians also provide support to each contract partner, visiting the farm regularly and remaining on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure the humane treatment of our hogs. Field technicians inspect the health and nutrition status of the sows and market hogs to make sure that our nutrition and health programs are implemented appropriately and that animals are in optimal condition.
Pilgrim’s family 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 disarticulation. 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 ensure humane conditions for our flocks. Our technicians inspect both the farm and the chickens during their visit, monitoring feed intake, all health issues such as eye and leg health, mortality, house and farm conditions, rodent and/or pest issues, proper ventilation, ammonia level, litter condition and adequacy of feed and water supply. Pilgrim’s technicians not only monitor the farm’s health plan, they also provide farmers with tips and share their knowledge on how to grow a healthier chicken.
Providing the proper nutrition to maintain appropriate body condition and optimize growth is critical to the overall health of our animals. Our team of Ph.D. nutritionists formulates 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 feed mills, using a proprietary mixture that includes corn, ground hay (for cattle) and other grains.
The cattle that enter our feedlots are predominately sourced from ranches where they spent the first year of their lives grazing on extensive rangelands. These animals’ digestive systems are adapted to a high-forage grazing diet, so the nutritionists in feedlots gradually transition them upon arrival from a diet high in roughage to one higher in grains. This high concentrate “finishing” ration improves efficiency and yields safe, wholesome beef that is more highly marbled and produced with fewer finite natural resources.
In our JBS USA Live Pork operations, diets are developed each stage of production, such as gestation, lactation or maintenance phase for sows and according to age and growth rate for finishing hogs. In our poultry houses, diets are formulated and adjusted daily according to the nutrient content of the feed and nutrient requirements of individual flocks.
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. At JBS USA Live Pork, the procedures we perform prevent injuries later in life and improve meat quality. These 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 and only purchases roosters and breeders from companies that have strict protocols in place to minimize stress related to these procedures.
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, enhanced record-keeping and tracking of all antibiotic use and training programs for JBS USA team members to guarantee compliance with our comprehensive health and disease-prevention programs, including animal husbandry, hygiene, monitoring and vaccination.
JBS USA has always practiced the principles of judicious use regarding antibiotics; however, 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:
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.
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.
Pilgrim’s does not administer antibiotics for routine medical treatment and is focused on producing healthy chickens 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 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.
As part of our long-standing commitment to safeguard the welfare of our livestock and poultry, we treat all sick animals with antibiotics if necessary and then remove them from our antibiotic-free/NAE, natural and organic programs. We do not allow sick animals to suffer.
While scientific evidence confirms that the responsible use of antibiotics not critical in human medicine remains an ethical and sustainable practice, we respect the right of consumers to choose the meat and poultry products they serve to their families. Some consumers have indicated a preference for eating meat and chicken raised without the use of antibiotics, and we believe it is our duty to offer responsible options to those consumers. As such, we are proud to offer traditional meat and poultry products, as well as antibiotic-free/NAE, vegetarian-fed, natural and organic options for consumers to enjoy.
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 can be used in place of antibiotics.
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.