Although Tyson has been a partner in the beef industry since their acquisition of IBP more than 10 years ago, I knew very little about the company and its people prior to this winter.
As I headed to Arkansas a little over a week ago for the first Farm Check Animal Welfare Advisory Committee meeting, I was unsure as to what to expect from the executives and employees of such a large corporation. In addition to this, I also did not personally know any of the other members of this third party welfare committee assembled by Tyson. I was the lone cattle feeder amongst an impressive group of scientists and professionals that were connected to the world of meat production from an eclectic array of directions.
I began the trip spending several hours in the women’s bathroom (the designated tornado shelter) of the wrong Arkansas airport as our plane made an unexpected landing to wait out the storms and tornados that threatened the area. I arrived at the hotel in Springdale, AR about 1:00am the morning of Tuesday the 21st– thankful for safe travels while also full of concern and sorrow for those in the neighboring state of Oklahoma that suffered tremendously at the hand of Mother Nature.
We began our inaugural meeting with a moment of prayer for those affected by the storms, followed by the announcement that the Tyson Family had dispatched teams to the disaster area to help provide food for those in need. The term Tyson Family was one that I heard repeatedly over the two day meeting—the expression took me by surprise the first time that I heard it, but after many interactions with the leaders and employees of the company I began to see why it was actually very appropriate.
Quite honestly, I found the large corporation (characterized as a “bully” by Food, Inc. and others in the foodie world) to be a group of compassionate and dedicated individuals. CEO Donnie Smith’s opening comments focused on the company’s core values and cultural tenets—each one revolving around integrity, compassion and commitment to teamwork. By the end of the first day, whatever preconceived notions that I might have carried with me on the plane to Arkansas were dispelled by the sincerity that universally characterized the employees that I met.
There is a core group of Tyson employees that are working on the Farm Check program. This team is led by Dean Danilson PhD; and made up of:
- Paula Alexander MS
- Kate Barger DVM
- Chris Daugherty PhD
- John Hardiman PhD
- Russ Nugent PhD
- Kellye Pfalzgraf DVM
- Lora Wright MS
Corporate leadership commitment to the program was evident as CEO Donnie Smith, COO Jim Lochner, and EVP Corporate affairs Sara Lilygren and several others were actively engaged throughout the meeting.
The 3rd partyAnimal Welfare Advisory Committee is made up of:
- Ryan Best
- Ed Cooney
- Gail Golab PhD MD
- Temple Grandin PhD
- Chef Karl Guggenmos
- Tim Loula DVM
- Miyun Park
- Ashley Peterson PhD
- Richard Raymond MD
- Janeen Salak-Johnson PhD
- Janice Swanson PhD
- Bruce Webster PhD
- Anne Burkholder
You can access brief biographical information on each of these folks by clicking here:http://bit.ly/10AxJgd.
I am convinced that my involvement in the Tyson Farm Check Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will result in tremendous learning and personal growth. It is also my hope that my contributions to the group will result in appropriate improvements and verifications in food animal welfare. Your trust in the beef that I grow is important to me. This Animal Welfare Advisory Committee allows me the opportunity to make an impact regarding animal welfare outside of my own farm.
Together we are stronger.
Together we are committed to striving to find the best way to care for food animals and grow healthy meat to nourish ourselves and the families that we are honored to provide for.