Five years ago, Mark Hill was one of the first to join a group of specially trained team members at Tyson Foods. He initially came to the Tyson Foods family in maintenance and was working in a supervisory role when he learned about a new specialist position created as part of our commitment to animal welfare. The position’s potential and importance intrigued him.

“It opened my eyes about what we can do better,” Hill said. “People don’t realize how much there is to do when it comes to animal care and welfare.” Hill currently serves as the animal welfare specialist at our Storm Lake, Iowa pork facility.

Our animal welfare specialists conduct internal audits of our facilities and provide service, assistance and expertise to our team members about animal welfare. Specialists are embedded in the day-to-day operations at each facility, serving as resources for our operation teams and plant managers. They also serve as advocates for the animals themselves and work to enhance our animal welfare culture and awareness throughout our facilities.

Hill recently won the Specialist’s Choice Award in the pork category for his Continuous Improvement (CI) project at the Tyson Foods’ 2020 Animal Welfare Summit. For his project, Hill focused on improving flow and mobility factors within the limits of the Storm Lake barn’s existing footprint. He determined this could be achieved through a series of small but strategic interior modifications, such as taking down a wall or changing the gate’s placement.

“Small changes can make a big impact,” Hill said. “It’s all about teamwork and working with what we have; it’s about being creative and adaptive in the process.”

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

“I especially love the annual Animal Welfare Summit. It’s great to interact with the other Specialists and hear from all of the experts there,” Hill said. “And they’re not just speaking, but really involving themselves with our work, having these two-way conversations. It helps drive home why we do what we do for these animals and why it is so important.”

During the virtual 2020 summit, 44 CI presentations were shared – projects developed by specialists focusing on animal welfare advancement – and a Judge’s Choice Award and Specialist’s Choice Award were presented to specialists in beef, pork and poultry.

The continuous education required of our specialists annually to keep their certification makes them a critical resource on animal welfare across our entire company. Due to this extensive knowledge, specialists also support and lead team member training on animal handling and welfare.

Six animal welfare specialists won 2020 CI Project awards: Chris JonesCarina BaltazarAbraham Abate, Mark Hill, John Crampton, and Chris Minor. 

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.

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