|Trident Stewardship Program Components
Our ducks are raised in quiet, spacious barns where they have room to roam about and have constant access to fresh water and feed. The barns protect the birds from extreme weather conditions, predators and disease, but allow the fresh air needed to keep our ducks healthy. Maple Leaf Farms’ grower partners use one of three flooring types in their duck barns: wood litter shavings and, increasingly, raised plastic slats and plastic coated wire flooring with a ¾ inch gap between slats. Some barns have a combination of litter and raised flooring. Regardless of the flooring type, our company demands consistent cleanliness and upkeep to maintain duck comfort, calm and safety. The contract growers we partner with also thoroughly clean and sanitize their barns in between each flock.
Our ducks are not free range. In fact, Maple Leaf Farms has a strict biosecurity program to ensure our ducks do not come in contact with wild birds, rodents and other animals that may carry disease. Visitors to farms are restricted, and in instances where visitors are allowed at the farm, they must wear protective clothing and footwear, utilize boot baths and hand sanitizers and verify they have not been in contact with hogs, other poultry or exotic birds 72 hours prior to the visit. Our contract growers are encouraged to wear farm-dedicated clothing, boots and hats. They must eliminate their contact with other poultry, hogs and exotic birds and routinely utilize boot baths and hand sanitizers upon every entry and exit.
Maple Leaf Farms’ audit procedures have changed a lot since our first formal audits back in 2001, but the reasons to perform and perfect audits remain the same: identify areas to improve and then actually improve them.
Once a year, a team of Maple Leaf Farms’ live production staff and duck well-being advisory committee members audit the family farms we partner with against the company’s guidelines for duck well-being, quality assurance and natural resources conservation. We train all of our contract growers on the audit process and on the guidelines that inform them.
And while audits purposefully occur without advance notice to the farms, our contract growers understand why and embrace the shared focus on getting better. As Maple Leaf Farms’ chief liaison and mentor to the grower community throughout the year, field service representatives play a particularly important role both during audits and as they coach producers through key areas for improvement. They also enforce the timeline for making those improvements.
We own and operate our own feed mills to ensure the highest quality nutrition for our ducks. And all of the family farmers we partner with use these natural feeds. We have a poultry nutritionist on staff who formulates a balanced diet for our ducks from corn, soy, wheat and other essential nutrients. Our feeds do not contain any antibiotics, growth hormones, or RUPPs (Restricted Use Protein Products) like meat and bone meal.
Maple Leaf Farms feed mills hold valid certifications under the American Feed Industry Association’s Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program. The Safe Feed/Safe Food program examines the record keeping practices, product tracing/tracking systems, and quality assurance programs a facility has in place to assure feed and food safety. Standards for this program go beyond regulatory requirements established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Maple Leaf Farms works to protect the health of our ducks by following strict biosecurity standards.
We monitor all of our flocks for Avian Influenza and Salmonella, and our company has participated in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) for years. Sampling takes place throughout the year and always prior to processing. Although we take so many precautions to keep our ducks healthy, we do occasionally administer antibiotics to sick birds under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. We feel treating sick ducks is the humane and responsible thing to do. We strictly adhere to our own pre-processing withdrawal guidelines – more stringent than those given by the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) and USDA.
We never accept medication as a substitute for poor hygienic conditions or farm management practices. Ducks that are prescribed antibiotics by a licensed veterinarian are ineligible for our line of antibiotic free products. Maple Leaf Farms does not include antibiotics in our duck feeds.
Quality Assurance and Food Safety Program
Quality assurance and food safety are a priority and cultural commitment at Maple Leaf Farms.
Maple Leaf Farms has Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans that ensure our operations meet or exceed strict government food safety standards put in place by the USDA. HACCP is a globally recognized, science-based food safety program that monitors critical areas throughout the production plants to prevent, eliminate or reduce food safety hazards. Our own HACCP program involves ongoing monitoring and testing of our products at Maple Leaf Farms and independent laboratories.
Maple Leaf Farms is also the first American duck producer to be certified by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Recognition as a GFSI institution is accomplished through a comprehensive benchmarking process in food safety management systems, all designed to ensure the delivery of safe food to consumers worldwide. Our third-party GFSI audit was conducted by the British Retail Consortium, which examined processes and documentation for food safety and HAACP.
Environmental monitoring and testing are also important components to our quality and food safety focus. Maple Leaf Farms facilities are cleaned and sanitized daily. Sanitation effectiveness is validated to support the removal of bio films and other conditions that may otherwise harbor or promote bacterial growth.
All of our production employees are trained in the execution of Good Manufacturing Practices and other food safety standard operating procedures. These food safety programs provide best practices for all of our employees at all of our production facilities, addressing several topics that can impact food safety and quality such as proper product handling, processing apparel, footwear and equipment sanitation.
Maple Leaf Farms’ commitment to quality and product consistency is supported by a comprehensive quality management program. Each production area has key critical-to-quality standards. These standards are specific to the products and monitored each time a product is prepared to support consistency and customer satisfaction.
Food is part of the joy of living, and Maple Leaf Farms helps to bring families together over memorable meals with our commitment to the highest standards for quality assurance and food safety.
Natural Resource Conservation
Maple Leaf Farms has an environmental ethic that respects and seeks to reduce our impact on the land, air and water in the communities where we work and live through natural resources conservation and proper waste management.
Consolidation within our company-owned production operations and ongoing conservation efforts have helped to significantly reduce our Midwest energy and water usage. In fact, over the last two years we have reduced our water and electricity usage by approximately 25% and our natural gas consumption by about 11%.
Focus on our corrugated and plastics recycling initiatives has increased our recycling tonnage by 40% over the last two years and in turn reduced the amount of waste materials going to landfills. In addition to our own recycling efforts, we also strive to source packaging and other goods that contain recycled materials.
Maple Leaf Farms supplies each of our contract growers with the company’s natural resource conservation guidelines to ensure they understand our commitment to the environment and our recommendations for proper manure management and mortality disposal. Our guidelines are an important resource to help contract growers reduce the potential for harming the environment and facing a related loss of farm income due to state and federal regulatory fines, clean up costs or termination of their contract with Maple Leaf Farms. We continue to examine current practices for ways we can have a positive impact on natural resource conservation and the communities where we work and live.
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