Maple Leaf Sustainability ReportMaple Leaf Sustainability Report

Social Responsibility

Our vision is to be the best consumer packaged meats business in the world. We will strive to achieve this through strengthening our environmental, social and financial performance, consistent with our values and commitment to sustainability.

2013 Milestones

  • Converted our first barn from gestation crates to open housing
  • Introduced “See It? Stop It!”, a program to encourage employee involvement to advance animal care
  • Increased the number of PAACO-certified employees in our poultry operations to eight in 2013
  • Supported communities with more than $1.2M in gift-in-kind and monetary donations
  • Established a lead partnership with “Food for Thought”, the largest school nutrition program in Brandon, MB

2014 Priorities

  • Convert two large sites with 6,000 gestation crate systems to open housing
  • Expand the “See It? Stop It!” program to our poultry and processing operations
  • Establish executive leadership and hire an animal welfare expert to lead the establishment of a best practice program
  • Review our philanthropy strategy with the goal to step-change the impact of our programs and engagement of our people
  • Play a lead role in a school nutrition pilot project in Hamilton, ON

Animal Care

As Canada’s largest meat company, we bear the responsibility to lead in advancing humane animal care and alleviating stress or suffering. Every employee involved in the raising, transport and processing of hogs and poultry must adhere to our detailed animal care policies and procedures. All of our employees who handle animals receive training, when they commence employment and on an annual basis thereafter, to support the health and safety of the animals and our people, and employees are expected to understand the critical importance of animal care, our strict operating procedures, and requirements of them. We have zero tolerance for abuse to animals. Disciplinary action includes suspension or termination of employment.

We have zero tolerance for any form of animal abuse.

Leadership and Collaboration

Our policies and procedures comprise an animal care management system that is guided by following leading best practices and scientific research, technological innovations, evolving management practices and the many diverse views on what constitutes proper animal care. Maple Leaf plays a leading role in advancing these standards by hosting forums, such as the Farm & Food Care Ontario Forum in February 2013, and by sitting on a number of industry committees and working groups including the National Farm Animal Care Council, the University of Manitoba loose housing committee, the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, the Poultry Research Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, and the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission. The Company also supports the Animal Care Research Chair at the Prairie Swine Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.

Oversight and Monitoring

Oversight and continuous improvement in animal care is ultimately the responsibility of the senior leaders of our hog production, poultry and pork businesses, who are required to sign off on policies and regularly review animal welfare audits and reports. All our production and primary processing facilities are supported by on-site veterinarians with expertise in animal welfare. An Animal Care Committee, which is comprised of leaders representing the hog and poultry businesses, food quality and safety, government and industry relations and sustainability and communications functions, as well as the executive leaders within our hog production, poultry and pork businesses, provides further oversight, and identifies risks and advances continuous improvement.

In 2014, Maple Leaf is establishing a senior position to lead the development of a company-wide animal care program that follows best practices in governance, reporting, verification, training and operations. It is our goal to deeply and firmly embed animal care and world-class practices into the Company’s culture, values and business model.  


Animal Care in our Operations

Maple Leaf’s hog production business is operated by Maple Leaf Agri-Farms (MLAF). MLAF owns approximately 63,000 sows on 180 owned and contracted farms, producing approximately 1.5 million piglets every year. This represents approximately 40% of the pork we process, with the balance of our requirements purchased from contract producers.

Maple Leaf has supported the establishment of Canada’s first Chair in Swine Welfare at the Prairie Swine Centre, University of Saskatchewan.

MLAF operates under the standards and codes of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), American Meat Institute (AMI), the Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA®) program and the Animal Care Assessment (ACA™) program. We have three internal quality assurance employees and two managers of Animal Health that conduct weekly audits of our hog production facilities. Our meat processing facilities are monitored by dedicated on-site inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Our five feed mills are also audited regularly by the CFIA to ensure compliance with proper feed manufacturing processes and medication withdrawal times. Our suppliers must follow the protocols of the CQA and ACA, while MLAF standards exceed these regulations.

The transportation of all animals must adhere to CFIA and AMI standards and all drivers transporting animals to our processing plants must be certified in Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA®) or have Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification or equivalent. TQA or CLT certification is verified on every load.

Open housing for sows

Maple Leaf was among the first of large North American producers to commit to converting gestation stalls to open housing. During 2013, we successfully converted our first barn with 1,250 sows from individual stalls to an open housing system. The conversion process is complex, and if done incorrectly could actually compromise animal welfare, as open housing exposes sows to more risk from aggression and competition for food. We consulted with the University of Manitoba and other industry experts to assess the various loose housing methods and determine which approach would work best for converting our system. 

Maple Leaf was the first national pork company in Canada to commit to transitioning to open housing for sows. In 2013, we converted 1,250 sows and two barns to open housing. Two barns with 3,000 sow spaces each will be converted in 2014.

We spent significant time conditioning and training the sows to access the electronic feeders, which has enhanced the transition and reduced aggression related to competition for food. With this successful pilot, our second conversion involving a 3,000 sow barn is underway and should be completed by the summer. We expect to complete one additional 3,000 sow barn conversion in 2014. We will be sharing information on our loose housing project – the first major retrofit in Canada – with other pork producers to advance animal welfare and the success of subsequent projects as the industry moves toward loose housing.

Maple Leaf will convert its 13 legacy barns by 2017, with two large sites to be converted in 2014. We are finalizing a transition plan for the 13 Puratone barns that we acquired in 2012. Our growing knowledge of animal behaviour in a loose housing environment will guide the conversion of our remaining sow barns, and support the Canadian industry to implement optimal loose housing systems as we share our experience and learnings.

See It? Stop It!

During 2013 we implemented the “See It? Stop It!” program in our hog production operations, which requires anyone who witnesses animal abuse, neglect, mishandling or has any concerns to report it to a supervisor or through a dedicated 1-800 hotline. The program reinforces our philosophy, and shared accountability, with every employee responsible for animal welfare. Maple Leaf worked closely with the Centre for Food Integrity, which developed the program, to revise our employee agreements and develop support materials specifically for our system. The 1-800 number is posted in all areas where people interact with animals. In 2014, this program is being expanded to all other areas of product processing.

Continuous Improvement

Maple Leaf Foods reviews operating protocols every year in order to continuously improve our animal welfare program and practices. Several opportunities for improvement were identified and implemented in early 2014, including making changes to euthanasia practices including pre-sedation, performing needleless injection for vaccination, and providing analgesic to control post-op pain when required. 

In 2013 and into 2014, our hog production operations changed euthanasia techniques to minimize pain or trauma to the animal and stress on our employees. We completed the shift from blunt force trauma, which is a conventional industry method to euthanize sickly piglets that will not survive and thrive, to the administration of carbon dioxide (CO2). We also implemented the new CFIA animal transportation regulations, introducing tougher standards to support higher standards of animal care in transportation.

NFACC Code of Practice

MLAF was an active participant in providing feedback to the new Codes of Practice developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council. The development process included scientific committees and broad representation by stakeholders including producers. The Codes cover every aspect of animal management from housing and treatments to surgeries and euthanasia. As an active participant in the development, MLAF shared its animal management practices and its insights on conversion of sow barns to loose housing, one of the key revisions in the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs. The new Codes were released in March 2014.

PEDv Task Force

MLAF has established a task force to mitigate risk from the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has killed millions of pigs in the United States since the onset of the outbreak in July 2013. The task force has established a four-stage program with steps to be taken to prevent the spread of the disease to Canada through to the eradication of the virus, should it appear in our barns or processing facilities. At the time of preparing this report, no case of PEDv has been identified in a Maple Leaf barn. MLAF is working proactively with others in the Manitoba pork industry to eradicate the virus from their locations and eliminate the spread of the virus.


Animal Welfare in our Poultry Operations

Maple Leaf operates three hatcheries and five processing plants. We source chicken and turkey to meet our processing requirements from third-party growers. The vast majority of the chicken we source comes from growers who have purchased chicks from our hatcheries. Our poultry operations operate under the NFACC Code of Practice, the Canadian Hatching Egg Producer CHEQ™ Program, the Chicken Farmers of Ontario Transportation and Safe Handling Program and the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO). Our hatcheries are also Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified. All of our facilities are audited annually by FS Net Services, by independent auditors contracted by our customers, and weekly by our own PAACO-trained staff. During 2013, Maple Leaf increased the number of PAACO-trained employees in our poultry operation to eight, placing one PAACO-trained employee in every plant.

In our hatcheries, we maintain optimal conditions to promote hatchability and healthy chicks. Chicks that are deformed or sickly are humanely euthanized through maceration. Maple Leaf follows best practice in this regard, based on technical studies and recommendations from veterinarians, animal care experts and regulatory bodies.

We recognize the need for caution and balance in antibiotic use for poultry and we have eliminated the use of antibiotics in our hatcheries. At our poultry processing plants, our employees are trained to ensure the NFACC Code of Practices, and our own animal care standard operating procedures are adhered to at all times.

Maple Leaf and our contracted transportation companies that are responsible for providing humane handling and transportation of poultry made continuous improvements in 2013 to further enhance animal welfare. This has included installing ventilation in transport trucks to improve air flow, implementing tougher criteria on birds fit to travel and reducing the time between truck departures and arrivals to our processing plants to reduce stress on the birds.

Community Outreach

In 2013, almost 1.5 million Canadians, mostly single mothers and children, lacked adequate family income to ensure food security, with more than 830,000 depending on food banks. Worldwide, poor nutrition causes nearly half of all deaths in children under five. As a leading food company, our philanthropic focus is to use our resources and knowledge to give back to our communities and to help alleviate national and global issues related to food and hunger.

Maple Leaf’s Donations
Bar Chart

At the time of this Report, we have embarked on a strategic review of our community outreach program to expand our impact and further support and encourage employee volunteerism.

Maple Leaf’s Donations
Year   Cash Amount   Gift in Kind    Total
2013 870,000 340,000 1.2M
2012    833,000    148,000    981,000
2011    790,000    747,000    1.5M 

Community Outreach at Maple Leaf is governed by a corporate donations policy that encompasses three cornerstones: 1) Providing emergency famine relief and crisis intervention; 2) supporting sustainable solutions for wellness and food security; and 3) encouraging employee volunteerism.

Our financial and food donations are complemented by offering our time and talent to charitable organizations, and encouraging and recognizing employee volunteerism. Our efforts take a variety of forms. We provide support to food banks and drop-in centres that deliver emergency food services. We also permit registered charities to purchase product at reduced cost to be picked up at our distribution centres. We contribute to hospitals and support centres that teach good nutrition and food safety. We support education – national and international – particularly in food nutrition research that promises to bring broader, longer-term systemic approaches to the issue of hunger. We have a strong relationship with UNICEF Canada to provide global annual emergency relief funding and develop customized campaigns.  In 2013, our emergency support was directed to Syria to provide desperately needed food supplies to refugee camps. UNICEF has successfully leveraged our support to raise additional corporate and government assistance for the past several years.

Volunteering to Make a Difference

The summer of 2013 marked the second year of Maple Leaf’s Volunteering to Make a Difference campaign, a celebration of the volunteering activities our employees engage in throughout the year. One of our more popular initiatives to promote and celebrate volunteerism is the opportunity for 15 of our people to win a donation to the charitable organization of their choice by sharing their story of volunteerism. These stories are profiled on our intranet to recognize and honour these volunteers and inspire others. In 2013, we attracted dozens of submissions and donated $15,000 to individual charities.

Maple Leaf has embedded support for employee volunteerism in our Community Outreach policy. Any salaried employee is encouraged to spend two full paid days or four half days every year volunteering with a registered charity during regular working hours. This supports our people’s involvement in local, national and global initiatives that are meaningful to them, and benefit from their skills.

Feeding 10,000 Families Across Canada

Inspired by a report from HungerCount 2013 on the urgent need for increased food donations to meet demands on food banks, Maple Leaf turned its Change Your Life With Bacon marketing campaign into a force for Christmas cheer. For every “like” or “share” of our Change Your Life with Bacon online video, we donated one pound of meat – which is by far the most needed food product by food banks – to help feed Canadians in need across the country. The campaign exploded across our social media platforms. We exceeded our goal and provided more than 10,000 pounds of holiday ham to local food banks in five cities across Canada during the holiday season. Maple Leaf employees across the country volunteered their time to help sort, pack and distribute these products to agencies in their cities.

Making Meals Meaningful

Mealtimes are a great opportunity for families to come together and share experiences. They were once a daily tradition but changing lifestyles have created a need for families to find new ways to connect. Making Meals Meaningful was a program sponsored by Maple Leaf Foods and Maple Leaf Prime® and developed in partnership with UNICEF Canada. The program featured themed conversation-starter cards that parents can use as a guide to address important and sometimes hard-to-discuss topics with their children.

This program was launched in 2012. In 2013, the cards focused on acceptance, compassion, empathy, generosity and selflessness. Awareness of the program was promoted through media interviews and social media events by Dr. Karyn Gordon, a renowned child psychologist.

Harnessing the Power of Social Media to Raise Awareness

Harnessing the power of social media to spread awareness about social issues can be remarkable. In 2013, we used our Facebook and Twitter accounts to help charitable organizations raise awareness of important food-based causes, including UNICEF’s emergency relief fund to help victims of natural disasters and emergencies receive proper nutrition; Up with Women, championed by Lia Grimanis, which profiles the challenges faced by women who live on the poverty line and the opportunities available to them in Canada to grow and succeed; and Dignitas’ World AIDS Day in support of eradicating AIDS in Africa. In total, Maple Leaf contributed to more than 1 million social media interactions to help spread the word about the important work charities are doing to improve living conditions around the world.

Maple Leaf contributed to more than 1 million social media interactions to help spread the word about the important work charities are doing to improve living conditions around the world.


While the challenge of producing enough food and ensuring it reaches people in need is daunting, we must also achieve this in a way that is affordable, sustainable, and delivers good nutrition. This challenge can only be accomplished through cooperation between governments, our industry, universities and the many dozens of organizations dedicated to eliminating hunger.

Maple Leaf Foods takes an active role in resolving the challenge by contributing our knowledge and resources to support continuous improvement in our industry.

Engaging in Public Policy

In 2013, we participated in 24 formal public policy initiatives aimed at supporting various elements of building a sustainable Canadian agrifood sector. We also contributed $50,000 for research and participated in the Conference Board of Canada’s project to develop a new national food strategy.

Maple Leaf contributed $50,000 for research and participated in the Conference Board of Canada’s project to develop a new national food strategy.

Working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and other industry and academic partners, we have played a lead role in developing a new learning partnership with the goal of establishing consistent standards and certification for food safety education and training in Canada by 2015. We are also an active participant in the national Agri-Sub Committee on Food Safety. This committee has been a key driver for advancing best practice in food safety and modernizing food safety legislation and regulation in Canada, including CFIA’s new inspection model and the new Food Regulations under the Safe Food for Canadians Act, due to come into effect in 2015.

Maple Leaf Foods is a founding member of the Grocers and Manufacturers Collaborative, composed of five major retailers and five major manufacturers who collaborate on the promotion of healthy eating and sustainability through initiatives such as aligning the provincial blue box programs to improve the efficiency of recycling of food packaging materials. Other initiatives include participation in successful efforts to secure free trade agreements with the EU and Korea, development of new models for business risk management in the pork industry and the launch of the Canadian Meat Council’s nitrites education program.

Maple Leaf participated in 24 formal public policy initiatives in 2013 aimed at improving Canada’s food sector.

Partnerships for Improvement

  • Canadian Meat Council
  • Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council
  • American Meat Institute
  • Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
  • Canadian Council of Chief Executives
  • Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters
  • George Morris Centre
  • Restaurants Canada
  • International Association of Food Protection
  • Packaging Association of Canada

Maple Leaf Foods belongs to or has partnerships with a diverse group of industry associations, chambers of commerce, think tanks and universities aimed at improving the quality, responsibility and competitiveness of Canada’s food sector. These include the Grocery Manufacturers Collaborative; the Farming and Food Care Ontario Forum; Cut Waste! Grow Profit! Food Waste Forum; and the alliance to prevent food-borne illness.

Maple Leaf is a member of more than 50 industry and business associations with a focus on continually improving Canada’s food sector.