The goals of the new Common Swine Industry Audit 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.
- Create a standard process that results in observer consistency and protection of herd health through biosecurity protocols.
Third-party auditing is a widespread, recognized and valued practice within the food production industry and is one component of a comprehensive commitment to building and maintaining the trust of customers and consumers. Third-party audits can bring transparency, credibility and assurance of process compliance to production units and provide useful feedback for continuous improvement.
The 2013 Pork Industry Forum delegates passed a resolution encouraging the National Pork Board to work with the various packers and other industry stakeholders to develop a common foundation for on-farm animal welfare audits, facilitate equivalency among packers, and minimize the need for multiple audits on a farm that supplies multiple packers. The common foundation for the audit would be based on Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus®) and Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA®).
In 2013, a task force of industry stakeholders – including producers, veterinarians, animal scientists, packers, processors and retail and foodservice representatives – were tasked with developing a workable, credible and affordable common on-farm audit system for the swine industry. The common audit materials were submitted for external academic review and underwent beta testing to:
- Determine the approximate amount of time required to conduct an audit on sites of various sizes and phases of production.
- Determine if the audit tool and standard provide necessary clarity to auditors on how to evaluate audit criteria.
- Validate that the scoring mechanism is appropriate and provides an accurate summary of the conditions of the site and pig management.
- Gather input from the perspective of third-party auditors who have experience with on-farm auditing.
- The task force reviewed feedback from the academic review and beta testing and made changes to strengthen the quality of the materials.
The task force developed the Common Industry Audit standard while considering scientific evidence, ethics and economics, which are the three factors that must be balanced for the swine industry to remain sustainable. The world and the marketplace are dynamic, and so the Common Industry Audit standard also must remain dynamic. The task force will consider revisions to the Common Industry Audit Standard on an annual basis by reviewing results of aggregated audit data, new scientific discoveries, changes in the marketplace and evolving consumer trends. Balancing these inputs on a consistent basis and adapting the Common Industry Audit standard will foster pro-competitive continuous improvement within the U.S. pork industry.
The Common Swine Industry Audit materials include:
- Audit instructions: This section provides instruction for auditors by defining the scope and objectives of the audit; defines a site, gives instructions for biosecurity, animal sampling and selection; and offers tips for conducting an audit.
- Audit standard: This section covers 27 key aspects of swine care and pre-harvest food safety through all phase of production. The audit covers the full life cycle of the pig while on the farm, including pig handling and load-out for transportation. The audit is designed to be independent of housing designs, size of operation or geographical location. Four primary areas will be reviewed during the audit: records, animals, facilities and caretakers.
- Audit Tool: This section contains the specific questions and their point values an auditor will use to evaluate compliance with the audit standard.
The Common Swine Industry Audit is PAACO Certified. What does this mean?
Certification of audit instruments is one of the services offered by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO). Its welfare auditor trainings and certification of auditors for meat plants and poultry have become an industry standard. In order to become PAACO-certified, the program must be submitted for a third-party review by a species-specific panel of animal welfare experts appointed by PAACO and overseen by a PAACO representative. The group initially critiques the audit for improvements and primarily evaluates it to determine if the audit meets all 12 minimum criteria established by the PAACO board of directors for a certifiable audit instrument. The criteria apply to all meat-animal species. PAACO has granted Certified Audit status to the Common Swine Industry Audit.
All of the materials for the Common Swine Industry Audit can be found here.
There are several resources currently available for producers to help them prepare for an audit. Fact sheets, record templates and training materials can be accessed here.
No. Audit results apply only to the specific site that is audited. A site is defined by its standard premises identification number (PIN). A PIN is assigned when a producer registers the site through a state, tribal or federal animal health authority that obtains the PIN through the USDA APHIS PIN allocator. A standard PIN is made up of seven alphanumeric characters that uniquely identify a specific geographic location. Registration and contact information for each state can be found by contacting the Pork Service Center at (800) 456-7675. An on-farm third party audit must include all pigs and facilities located at the geographic location identified by the PIN.
Yes. The site assessment and audit have different purposes and outcomes. The PQA Plus site assessment is an educational and benchmarking tool that provides measurement and feedback from the PQA Plus advisor on effectiveness of training and management to ensure pig well-being.
The audit is completed by an independent party who provides verification that the animal well-being system is working as designed. There is no education component to the audit; rather it is an objective snapshot in time of the farm and is one element of the animal well-being assurance process.
No. Again, the site assessment and audit have different purposes and outcomes. The PQA Plus site assessment is an educational and benchmarking tool that provides measurement and feedback from the PQA Plus advisor on the effectiveness of training and management to ensure pig well-being.
The audit is completed by an independent party to provide verification that the animal well-being system is working as designed. There is no education component to the audit, rather it is an objective snapshot in time of the farm and is one element of the animal well-being assurance process.
The audits should be conducted by a third-party auditor. This person should be independent of the farm and should not be in a personal, professional or economic relationship that would lead to a potential/perceived conflict of interest. Ideally, auditors should be part of an accredited auditing company that provides in-house training, specific auditing protocols and ethical auditing standards.
The qualifications of an auditor and the training they receive can have a large impact on observer variability. Auditors are expected to be objective and stay within the scope of the audit tool they use, limiting their activities to auditing and not consulting on results. Auditors are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and adhere to American Society for Quality (ASQ) professional auditing protocols. The PAACO is in the process of developing an auditor training and certification course specific to on-farm swine auditing.
It is critical that the auditor does not compromise the biosecurity of a swine farm. The auditor does not want to be responsible for introducing a disease to the farm or spreading a disease within the farm. To efficiently conduct on-site verification, the auditor needs to understand the biosecurity protocols he or she will be subject to, as well as the physical layout of the operation. Many farms have established biosecurity protocols that should be adhered to by the auditor. This includes required hours of downtime, personnel entry procedures and if and how external equipment/materials can be brought into the site. In the event of a farm not having a biosecurity protocol, the auditor still needs to follow basic biosecurity principles defined in the Common Swine Industry Audit instructions.
The time needed to complete an audit will depend on the type and size of the farm and the ease of access to needed records. Based on the beta test, it takes an average of two hours to complete an audit for wean-to-finish sites and four hours for breeding sites.
There are five audit questions that are considered critical and do not have point values. If any of these criteria are found to be unacceptable, the site will automatically fail the audit. Even if there is an automatic failure, the remainder of the audit should be completed during the visit to gather the rest of the data for the site. Each remaining audit question is assigned a number of points. If a site meets the minimum standard, full points will be awarded for the question. If a site does not meet the minimum standard, no points will be awarded for that question. A site cannot earn partial points for any audit question.
The audit tool is designed to provide a score for each section (animal/benchmarking, caretaker, facility, records, food safety and loading and transport) and an overall score for the site. Section scores allow for better interpretation of the overall audit score. The underlying data collected by the auditor is provided with the scores to provide context to the scores.
No minimum passing score has been established. Rather, section and overall audit scores for an individual site are presented compared to aggregated audit scores from the rest of the industry. Interpretation of scores must come from the buyers (e.g. packers, customers) in the marketplace.
If an audit question is found to be unacceptable during the audit, producers are expected to complete a corrective action report to document that either the correction has occurred or that a plan is in place to address the issue in the future. Producers may choose to work with their PQA Plus advisors to complete the corrective action report. Corrective actions for areas considered critical must be completed within 10 calendar days from the site visit. Corrective actions for all other areas must be completed within 30 calendar days from the site visit.
Buyers in the marketplace (i.e. packers) will be responsible for reviewing audit results and approving corrective action reports to determine if their supplier has adequately resolved the identified issue and if the site requires a re-audit.
If a customer in the marketplace (i.e. packer) has asked you to complete a third-party audit as a condition of sale and you decline, it is up to the customer to decide if they continue to purchase from you as a supplier.
This will depend on the market where you sell your pigs.
This will depend on the market where you sell your pigs.
The PQA Plus program is revised every three years. The Common Swine Industry Audit will provide direction for the next PQA Plus revision scheduled to be released in 2019. The changes will be reflected in both the producer education and the on-farm site assessment components of the PQA Plus program.