I remember traveling in Europe a few years ago and walking into the supermarket to check out the meat counter. One of the things that struck me, beyond the price per kilogram, was the number and variety of auditing logos on each pack of meat. There were often so many logos, it sometimes seemed hard to actually see the product. I thought at the time “Wouldn’t it make more sense to combine all this effort into just one overarching audit program?” Fast-forward to recent times in the United States’ meat counters and things look very similar.
Consumers are challenging pork producers to provide third-party audits of on-farm practices to ensure animal well-being and pre-harvest food safety. In 2013, producers passed a resolution at the National Pork Industry Forum charging the National Pork Board with addressing these challenges. Thus was born the Industry Audit Task Force. The task force comprised producer and veterinary representatives, researchers, retailers, and packer representatives from most of the major processing facilities.
The objective of the task force was to formulate a comprehensive on-farm auditing program and develop consensus among the stakeholders. At the 2015 World Pork Expo, Pork Checkoff introduced the resulting Common Swine Industry Audit (CSIA) that is based on the standards set forth in the Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) and Trucker Quality Assurance programs and certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization. Since then, the producer-led initiative has received extensive on-farm testing and is now available for use by the pork industry.
The goals of the CSIA are to
• Provide stakeholders with a consistent, reliable, and verifiable system that assures on-farm animal well-being and pre-harvest food safety,
• Eliminate duplication and minimize the administrative burden placed on producers,
• Develop consensus about consistent standards between and among various independent audit programs, and
• Create a standard process that results in observer consistency and protection of herd health through biosecurity protocols.
A certified third-party auditor, with no association with the farm or its employees, conducts the audit, which focuses on 27 key aspects associated with five primary areas of production, including records, animals, facilities, caretakers, and loading and transport. The audit, designed to be independent of facility size or design, assesses all phases of production, including load-out. The audit process may take up to 4 hours, depending on the production phase or phases evaluated.
The auditor will conduct a thorough examination of the farm, including record-keeping, biosecurity protocols, and training records. While on-site, the auditor will observe animal conditions and caretaker interactions. He or she will conduct an exit meeting to discuss the findings and allow for any necessary clarification, but cannot provide guidance relative to the findings.
The audit questions each have assigned point values. The site, as defined by the premises identification number, receives the full point value if it meets the approved standard. The scoring is broken down into each of the five production areas evaluated. Packers and customers can interpret the individual site’s overall and individual section scores against industry-wide aggregated scores.
Although there is no established minimum passing score, willful acts of abuse or failure to euthanize animals in a timely manner will result in the site failing the audit automatically. If the audit finds something unacceptable, the producer will have 10 days to complete corrective actions for critical issues. The farm’s customers review the audit results and determine if corrective actions have been taken and whether or not a follow-up audit is necessary.
The CSIA does not replace the PQA+ site assessment, which serves as an educational and benchmarking tool to ensure pig well-being. The assessment provides an opportunity for the PQA+ advisor to educate the producer on issues associated with animal well-being, pork quality, and safety. The CSIA, on the other hand, does not have an educational component, but rather is a method to provide independent verification that the animal well-being system is working.
The development of the CSIA was a producer-led initiative. Its adoption by the industry, in association with PQA+, provides an opportunity to educate producers and verify compliance with industry-established standards for animal well-being and the promotion of pork safety and quality. It is a monumental step forward to enhance consumer confidence and address customer expectations.
All of the materials for the Common Swine Industry Audit are available online at http://www.pork.org/commonaudit.
Harry Snelson, DVM Director of Communications