Beef Industry Urged to be Vigilant About Animal Welfare

Operate like you are behind a plate glass window with a busload of third-graders out front, professor says.

Published on: Aug 8, 2013

Self-regulation too often means no regulation at all and the beef industry should steer clear of those who would move in that direction, says Chris Reinhardt a professor in the Kansas State University Animal Sciences and Industry department.

Reinhardt, who participates in the Beef Cattle Institute at K-State, says beef is the meat of the affluent world and its customers demand it be produced in a healthy, wholesome manner.

"We have plenty of reason to be concerned about regulatory overload," he said. "But in our industry, regulation is essential. We need to formulate a program that that assures we combat greed and that we strive to be better tomorrow than we are today."

Chris Reinhardt, professor in Kansas State Universitys Animal Sciences and Industry department says Kansas feedlots have scored well in animal welfare assessments.
Chris Reinhardt, professor in Kansas State University's Animal Sciences and Industry department says Kansas feedlots have scored well in animal welfare assessments.

Only by continuous improvement can the industry avert more and more government-imposed regulation, he said.

Reinhardt urged beef producers to "operate like you are behind a plate glass window with a busload of third-graders out front."

"If you are doing something in your operation that you would not want anyone to see, then you should change what you are doing," he said.

Reinhardt spoke at a Cattleman's Workshop at the Magouirk Conference Center in Dodge City on July 23, sharing the podium with renowned animal handling expert Temple Grandin, a Colorado State University professor who has developed a range of animal welfare guidelines for the meat handling industry.

Kansas feedlots usually score well

Reinhardt said Kansas feedlots have scored well in assessments of animal welfare that rate how well handlers protect cattle from thirst, hunger or discomfort, how they prevent injury or disease, allow the animals to express normal behaviors and keep them free from fear or distress.

"The rating of Kansas is significant because one out of every four steaks in the U.S. comes from an animal that spent at least part of its life in Kansas," he said.

The greatest on-going challenge for Kansas feedlots is preventing heat stress, he said.

"We know it gets hot in the summer in Kansas and we need to plan for it. The greatest impacts come when there is a lack of night cooling, when humidity goes up, when the wind dies down or when there is a lack of cloud cover. We can plan ahead for those conditions," he said.

Shade is critical, he said, along with an adequate supply of water than all cattle can access, and light-colored bedding that reflects rather than absorbs heat.