Show Animals: Challenges at the packer Back »

Animal Care Wednesday Webinars
Husbandry Practices in the Spotlight

Why do youth livestock show animals require extra paperwork when marketed to a packer? The April 6th speaker for the Animal Care Wednesday Webinar was Paula Alexander, Project Manager of Tyson’s Sustainable Food Production and Food Safety Quality Assurance. She outlined some of the basic challenges and what steps a packer takes to address the challenges.

At the Packer

Show animals pose five general packer challenges.

  • Residue sampling increases – product may be held if positive for further testing, additional tracking in plant, loss of product if it tests positive.
  • Scheduling of employees – USDA/FSIS requests that all show animals are harvested first in the day or “A Shift” because of increased sampling needs.
  • Carcass data collection – requires more people to do tag transfer and carcass data collection, may slow down the line.
  • Mobility of the animals – specifically beef cattle, must be able to walk to the restrainer/knock box on their own or they will be condemned.
  • Bruises or injection site lesions – requires trimming-off the damaged muscle, which means the plant loses money and increases employee’s trimming time on carcasses.

Alexander outlined the United States National Residue Program of the chemicals that are tested and the process each plant is required to go through to ensure all meat is safe. Packing plants have plans to minimize the risk of presence in the meat of chemical hazards, such as drug and medication residues. As part of this plan, packers typically require affidavits and/or treatment records for cattle and hogs they buy from state youth projects or market animal shows. Packers typically require these documents be provided prior to arrival or with the incoming truck of animals. Several examples of these documents and the required phrases were provided in her presentation slides for viewers to see.

Parent, Youth, & Leader Responsibility

Raising any animal for food, even those for youth projects, comes with a high level of responsibility by each person along the food chain. Alexander noted several specific responsibilities that parents, youth, and youth leaders should follow:

  • Guarantee industry best practices through quality assurance certification programs; both parents and youth should complete the training.
  • Adhere to drug label withdrawal times carefully.
  • Communicate with the buyer or plant if withdrawal time on any animals is missed.
  • Understand we are all responsible for producing safe food.
  • Parents and/or youth leaders should be proactive and assist youth to implement best management practices that result in safe food products.

It was a pleasant reminder that youth completing quality assurance programs have made a positive impact on decreasing challenges at the packer level. Alexander also stressed the importance of keeping parents involved in youth animal projects by completing the quality assurance trainings with the youth.

“The parent has to know what’s going on with livestock…The parent plays a key role in bridging the gap between that leader or Extension agent and that child. They should go through the same training the kids are expected to go through, PQA and BQA trainings, and have as much or more understanding of best practices so that they can encourage the use of those best practices to their own children.”

The responsibility and potential legal implications of meat residues should not solely be placed on our youth. Parents and youth leaders need to encourage active engagement at all levels of the animal project. Alexander also said, “When we {Tyson} receive animals it’s from a fair. If there is an issue with an animal from that group, it taints the view for that fair, not just that one individual. So everybody needs to work together and understand what’s happening in that organization and not just their animals.”

Hold each other accountable for the safety and quality of the food supply these show animals are entering. Our customers have high expectations and we should do everything possible to maintain their trust.

If you have additional questions about marketing show or youth project animals, contact Paula Alexander.

Animal Care Wednesday Webinars

For more information on upcoming Animal Care Wednesday Webinars, please contact Heidi Carroll. To view this and past webinars, please visit the animal care resource website.

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