The Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants have joined forces for the purpose of identifying science-based, objective, and measurable indices for desirable practices in the growing, handling, and processing of animals used for food. The AVMA has agreed to lend its expertise to this initiative, as a member of the FMI-NCCR's Animal Welfare Advisory Panel. The panel comprises experts in veterinary medicine, animal science, and agricultural production.
The FMI is a nonprofit association conducting programs in research, education, industry relations, and public affairs on behalf of its members, including their subsidiaries-food retailers, wholesalers, and their customers in the United States and around the world. The FMI contacted the AVMA for assistance after the FMI adopted a general policy on the welfare of animals raised for food.
In June 2001, the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee presented a recommendation to the Executive Board, proposing that the AVMA serve as a resource to the FMI as it develops and refines animal handling expectations for its members. In a letter inviting the AVMA to participate, vice president of food safety programs for the FMI, Dr. Jill Hollingsworth, wrote, "We believe the AVMA's commitment to animal welfare and the credibility you bring to this issue will not only help us, but also serve to advance a strong and reasonable position on animal welfare." The recommendation was approved.
The NCCR is a national trade association representing 40 of the nation's largest multiunit, multistate chain restaurant companies. The FMI and the NCCR formed a formal alliance for the purpose of developing animal welfare guidelines in June 2001. The same month, the AVMA joined the FMI-NCCR's Animal Welfare Expert Advisory Panel, which also includesfood scientist Joe Regenstein, PhD; animal scientists Temple Grandin, PhD, Joy Mench, PhD, and Janice Swanson, PhD; ethicist David Fraser, PhD; and Adele Douglas of the American Humane Association. Dr. Gail Golab, assistant director, professional and public affairs for the AVMA, was appointed as AVMA liaison to the Food Industry Animal Welfare Program panel. As liaison, Dr. Golab communicates with representatives of veterinary species groups to obtain information and then relays that information to the advisory panel.
Commenting on the panel's objectives, Dr. Golab said, "We believe a science and performance-based approach to appropriate modification of agricultural practices is the only way to ensure that any changes recommended are those that will actually result in health and welfare benefits for animals."
Goals identified for the FMI-NCCR initiative include identifying and implementing best practices in animal production, a measurable audit process, consistency among the retail sector, and improved communications across the supply chain on animal welfare issues.
"We are committed to overseeing a technical review that includes relevant research, experimental studies, veterinary expertise, producer expertise, an environmental scan of the issues, and other measures relevant to species-specific welfare. In addition to our work with the producer community, we have communicated to the USDA our strong support for vigorous enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act," said Terrie Dort, NCCR president.
According to the FMI-NCCR interim report, available at www.avma.org, the organizations have been meeting with respective member committees, advisers, and producer organizations for the past 15 months. As consistent with their goals, they have reviewed existing producer animal welfare guidelines, identified gaps, and recommended specific changes, additions, and revisions.
The guideline review process is expected to be completed by June 2002. At that time, the FMI and NCCR anticipate endorsing a set of animal welfare guidelines that are species specific, and will recommend them to their member companies for use with their suppliers of animal protein products.