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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Maple Leaf Foods (TSX:MFI) says it's launching what it calls an "animal care commitment" designed to improve conditions and reduce discomfort for animals in the food supply chain. The company says it plans to require its pork and poultry operations to undergo an annual independent audit by company-approved auditors and quickly correct any deficiencies. It will also seek to further enhance approaches to pain management and potential alternatives to procedures such as surgical castration and tail docking. Maple Leaf says it will continue to reduce or eliminate antibiotic use across the supply chain, while recognizing the importance of providing the medication necessary to sick or injured animals. The company also says it will advocate strongly for enhancements to on-farm poultry audits, including increased transparency and comprehensive annual independent audits.