As our Storm Lake, Iowa, pork plant’s animal welfare specialist, Abraham Abate’s experience in veterinary medicine greatly influences his work and approach to animal welfare. 

“While I’m not a practicing veterinarian, my background in this field helps drive me to treat every animal with respect and dignity that it deserves,” Abate said. “We all must be continuously striving for the good of the animal, and I believe Tyson Foods delivers on this core value.” 

Abate, along with five other animal welfare specialists, was awarded at the 2020 Animal Welfare Specialists Summit for his Continuous Improvement (CI) Project. Every year, the summit brings together dedicated specialists, animal welfare experts, and executive leaders from across the country to share research projects and best practices and discuss the future of animal welfare.

Abate won the Judge’s Choice in the pork category. 

For his research project, Abate focused on one of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare: freedom from discomfort. The Five Freedoms are considered a gold standard of animal welfare, encompassing both mental and physical well-being of animals. Freedom from discomfort not only means a comfortable resting area or good bedding, but environmental factors like noise, light, and temperature.

Abate’s project centered around hogs in the resting pen and their reaction to the existing cooling system – a sprinkler system designed to help the animals combat heat stress and stay cool and comfortable during warmer days. Abate observed, however, that the hogs moved away from the water source after only about an hour. This told Abate two things.

“One, the animals don’t like it,” he said. “From an animal welfare point of view, that means I’m not meeting the standards of the five freedoms. Two, it’s not efficient because we’re wasting water.”

Seeing an opportunity to not only enhance the hogs’ pen experience but also save water, Abate developed and tested a new misting system. The system reduces heat stress for the animals as it cools the air temperature around them and also conserves water at the plant. After noting positive results in the project’s initial phase, the plant is expanding the new cooling system to more pen locations.

Abate has been with Tyson Foods for six years. He started at the Storm Lake facility as a microbiologist, moving to a larger food safety role, before joining Tyson’s animal welfare specialists team in 2018. He has a master’s degree in food safety and microbiology and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the same field. 

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

The Judge’s Choice category is evaluated by animal welfare professionals outside of Tyson Foods, and they consider each presentation based on innovation, potential for high impact on animal welfare, impact for other Tyson Foods business units, project design and execution, collaboration, and the presentation itself. The Specialist’s Choice category is scored by fellow peers in the same category.

Animal welfare is a top priority at Tyson Foods, and this commitment is grounded in continuous improvement and innovation. We provide extensive training to team members interacting with our animals and maintain an Animal Welfare Advisory Panel that provides guidance on current animal welfare topics, research priorities, and emerging issues or technologies.

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