March is Women’s History Month, and we’re excited to recognize and celebrate the many voices and contributions of women at Tyson Foods in the coming weeks. 

This month also marks Carina Baltazar’s 21st year at our Pasco, Wash., beef plant where she serves as the plant’s dedicated animal welfare specialist, a role she took on in 2019. Her experience and expertise were recently recognized at the 2020 Animal Welfare Summit, where she was given the Specialist’s Choice – Beef award for her Continuous Improvement (CI) Project, the first woman ever to win a first prize CI award. The Specialist’s Choice category is scored by fellow peers in the same category.

“I’m proud of myself because of the short amount of time I’ve been a specialist, and I’m honored to work with the team I have in Pasco,” Baltazar said. 

Baltazar began her career at Tyson Foods as a young, single mother processing beef to provide for her child. She moved up from the floor to take on leadership roles in both Food Safety & Quality Assurance and Management Support, before spending eight years as a harvest supervisor. 

“Tyson Foods gave me all the necessary tools and learning material I needed to better myself,” Baltazar said. “Tyson has always given me the opportunity to prove myself. They see my potential and what I’m capable of.”

As an animal welfare specialist, and as part of Tyson’s efforts to continually improve, Carina has spearheaded a host of effective modifications throughout the facility that have enhanced animal welfare and team member safety. These improvements include expanded yard pens, new livestock scales, opening up drive alleys for better cattle movement, and enhanced protections in the pens for team member safety.

Her 2020 CI project focused on a relatively simple yet innovative engineering solution for the holding box equipment the facility uses to effectively manage and process the animals. Through routine auditing and analysis of the data, Carina determined that the height of the structure’s middle gate could be modified to improve the cattle’s line of sight and maneuverability of team members and their equipment. After completion of the project, effectiveness was successfully measured by cattle being calmer during the process and team members having improved safety and ergonomics.

“In addition to team member health and safety, animal welfare is our number one priority,” Baltazar said. “The better we take care of our animals, the better our products will be. And, thankfully, management backs me up on decisions I make. They help me brainstorm new ideas, and if I need support, they’re always willing to help me out.” 

She also attributes her success to the influence of her grandmother, a now retired Tyson team member. Anytime Carina thought about giving up, she thought of her.

“My grandmother is my biggest role model,” Baltazar said. “I thought to myself, ‘How is it possible that me, a strong woman, is going to quit?’ And here I am.”

What’s next for Baltazar?

“Becoming PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) certified,” Baltazar said.

The Animal Welfare Summit brings dedicated specialists, animal welfare experts, and executive leaders from across the country together to share research projects and best practices and discuss the future of animal welfare as our company continues to grow. 

Six animal welfare specialists won 2020 CI Project awards: Chris Jones, Carina Baltazar, Abraham Abate, Mark Hill, John Crampton, and Chris Minor. We’ll be showcasing each winner and their project on The Feed blog over the next several weeks.

Find more information on our commitment to sustainability through animal welfare here