Animal health and welfare

The good treatment of animals and the welfare of production animals are important to us for many reasons, including our ethical prin­ciples, sustainable development in our business operations and profitable growth. Our strategic goal is to be the best company in our industry in terms of animal welfare. We require that animals grow in good conditions in the right type of environment and receive good treatment. In terms of animal health and welfare, sustainability covers genetics, feeding and rearing conditions, as well as animal care on farms, during transport and in slaughterhouse operations.

Animal health and welfare are developed at HKScan in line with the Welfare Quality principles:

  • Feeding: No hunger or thirst
  • Rearing environment: Thermal comfort, comfort around resting, ease of movement
  • Health: No injuries or diseases, no pain induced by management procedures
  • Behaviour: Social behaviours and other normal behaviours, good human-animal relationships

With regard to animal health and welfare, HKScan’s operations are guided by the HKScan Group’s Animal Welfare Policy (link in Finnish). Animal health and welfare are based on compliance with local laws and the EU regulations, and on guidelines and operating methods adopted by the company and the industry that exceed statutory requirements. The Executive Vice President of Animal Sourcing and Primary Production is responsible for operations related to animal health and welfare at HKScan. The Group’s VP Quality director is responsible for animal health and welfare with regard to slaughterhouse operations, in cooperation with the employees in charge of animal welfare at the slaughterhouses.

Animal well-being is continuously developed in cooperation with the company’s contract producers and other partners. HKScan continued the further development of animal well-being in 2017.

HKScan’s species-specific operating principles related to animal health and welfare are presented in the following sections: 

More information is also available in our Corporate responsibility Fact sheet: poultry, pork and beef

Animal health and medication

There are growing concerns about antibiotic resistance and the decreased efficiency of antibiotics in treating illnesses. Animal health is ensured through species-specific living conditions, good hygiene practices and other management (e.g. the transfer of animals within production facilities), and a high level of biosecurity. The use of antibiotics to medicate animals in HKScan’s production chain is considerably lower than in European countries on average. If a diseased animal has been treated with antibiotics, our compliance with the withdrawal periods ensures that HKScan’s products do not contain residues of antibiotics when purchased by consumers. 

The most effective way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to only use antibiotics to treat diagnosed illnesses – this applies to people and animals alike. HKScan does not use antibiotics preventively or to promote animal growth on its own farms or its contractual production farms. The use of hormones to facilitate growth is also prohibited. When antibiotics are necessary, they are used under close supervision, only on the order of a veterinarian to treat sick animals. Our goal is to maintain a low level of antibiotic use and achieve even better results – without compromising animal welfare. 

More information is available in our Corporate responsibility Fact Sheet package about antibiotics.

A high level of biosecurity

We actively monitor the spread of animal diseases and their possible effects on the production chain. Preventing the spread of African swine fever (ASF) into pig farms has played an important role on HKScan’s farms in the Baltic countries. We are also prepared to prevent the spread of ASF in Finland in Sweden, both nationally and at the farm level. The avian influenza epidemic at the beginning of 2017 caused us to implement even stricter measures than before on poultry farms, particularly in Denmark and Finland.

Animal welfare, from the farm to the slaughterhouse

Training for animal transport drivers is part of the continuous development of our operations. All of our animal transport partners have the required qualifications, and their vehicles have been designed and approved for transporting animals. The authorities and the veterinarians at slaughterhouses regularly monitor the transport of animals. The appropriate and calm treatment of animals during transport is important to ensure animal welfare, safety at work and the high quality of meat.

HKScan has been cooperating with the Australian-Swedish animal behaviour expert Sophie Atkinson since 2015. Atkinson has provided training for producers and the employees of transport companies and slaughterhouses (link in Finnish) on natural animal behaviours. She has also carried out animal welfare audits at HKScan’s slaughterhouses, and the facilities have been further developed based on her recommendations, by improving access passages to increase ease of movement, among many other measures. In 2017, Atkinson carried out an evaluation and provided recommendations related to animal welfare for the sow slaughter line to be built at the Paimio slaughterhouse in Finland. An external animal welfare expert was also consulted in the planning phase of the new poultry slaughterhouse in Rauma, Finland.

HKScan has installed recording surveillance cameras in all of its slaughterhouses in its home markets, most recently in its Swedish units during 2017. The cameras are located in areas that are critical in terms of animal welfare. Camera surveillance increases transparency in the production chain and strengthens consumers’ and customers’ trust in the sustainability of our operations.

Audits and monitoring as part of day-to-day operations

Audits carried out by the authorities, experts and customers are part of day-to-day operations at HKScan. Official veterinarians are present at all slaughterhouses on a daily basis, and operations are continuously monitored through internal and external audits.

Examples

1. One of HKScan’s partners in Finland took into use a modern semi-trailer designed especially for the transport of pigs (link in Finnish). 

2. New vehicles (link in Finnish) were also taken into use for the transport of beef cattle and calves.

3. In the summer 2017, HKScan launched Finnish “No Antibiotics Ever” pork products in its export markets. The animals have been healthy throughout their lives and have never been treated with antibiotics.

4. In September 2017, the company launched its Opti-Pekoni pig feeds in Finland. The new feed concept is intended to ensure pig welfare and further improve productivity.

5. As one of the first companies in the world, HKScan has introduced a chicken rearing method (link in Finnish) in Finland that enables chicks to hatch in the henhouse, instead of in separate hatcheries. This further improves animal well-being, because the broilers are not moved to another location after they have hatched.