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Meet Our Experts

Animal Health and Welfare Advisory Council

In 2021, Dine Brands established our Animal Health and Welfare Advisory Council. The founding of the council is a critical step to engage with a diverse community of experts in partnership with our trusted suppliers to ensure the cuisine we serve is safe and produced in the most responsible way. We recognize our company has a role to play to ensure that our food production systems also honor the health and welfare of the animals that are a part of our food supply. The main purpose of the Dine Brands Animal Health and Welfare Advisory Council is to provide advice about current and emerging trends, industry expertise and general insight on the topics surrounding animal health and welfare.

Dr. Karen Christenson

Senior Director for Animal Welfare
Tyson Foods
Member since 2021

Dr. Karen Christenson currently serves as the Senior Director for Animal Welfare at Tyson Foods. She works with a team of Welfare Specialists focusing on continuous improvement and research to improve welfare at Tyson Foods. Prior to working at Tyson, she served on the Poultry Science Faculty at the University of Arkansas. She currently is the Chair of PAACO, the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization, and the Chair of the Poultry Science Association Welfare Committee.

Dr. Christenson received a Ph.D. in poultry physiology from Mississippi State University and a M.S. and B.S. in animal science from Washington State University.

Dr. Anna K. Johnson

Professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare
lowa State University
Member since 2021

Dr. Anna K. Johnson currently serves as a Professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare and the Tyrone D. Artz, M.D. Chair for Faculty Excellence in Ani at Iowa State University. Prior to joining ISU, she was the first Director of Animal Welfare for the National Pork Board. Dr. Johnson developed and implemented Checkoff-funded swine welfare and welfare-related research within the Science & Technology Department. Additionally, she was instrumental in the formulation and launch of the Swine Welfare Assurance Program (SWAP).

Dr. Johnson earned a Ph.D. in animal welfare from Texas Tech University, a M.S. in applied animal behavior and animal welfare from University of Edinburgh and a B.S. in animal science from Reading University.

Stewart T. Leeth

Chief Sustainability Officer
Smithfield Foods, Inc.
Member since 2021

Stewart T. Leeth is chief sustainability officer for Smithfield Foods, Inc. Mr. Leeth leads the company’s global sustainability strategies, which now focus on seven core pillars: Animal Welfare; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Environmental Stewardship; Food Safety and Quality; Health and Wellness; Helping Local Communities and Worker Health and Safety. He also leads Smithfield’s environmental compliance programs.

Mr. Leeth joined Smithfield Foods’ legal department in 2008 and served in a variety of legal, regulatory and government affairs roles with the company before being appointed to his current position in 2016. Under his leadership, the company has announced several industry-first carbon reduction goals, met its commitment to move pregnant sows into group housing on company-owned farms and exceeded its goal to source feed from farms utilizing precision farming techniques that reduce fertilizer use in the company’s supply chain.

Mr. Leeth previously served as Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, representing a variety of state agencies, and began his legal career working as a law clerk to a federal judge presiding in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Dr. Maja M. Makagon

Associate Professor of Animal Science
University of California - Davis
Member since 2021

Dr. Maja M. Makagon currently serves as Associate Professor of Animal Science at University of California, Davis. As a member of the faculty in the Department of Animal Science, she directs a poultry behavior and welfare research laboratory. Dr. Makagon’s research aims to understand the ways in which poultry perceive and interact with their environments, and the implications these interactions have on poultry management, well-being and productivity. She works across poultry production systems with the overall goal of finding solutions to issues in modern poultry production systems.

Dr. Makagon earned a Ph.D. in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis, a M.S. in psychology from Cornell University, and a B.S. in general biology from the University of Virginia. Dr. Makagon completed post-doctoral training in the Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University and spent 3 years as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University.

Kay Johnson Smith

Chief Operating Officer
Dairy MAX
Member since 2021

Ms. Kay Johnson Smith currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer at Dairy MAX. Prior, Ms. Johnson Smith led the Animal Agricultural Alliance team as president and CEO; a position she held from 2011 to May 2022.

Ms. Johnson Smith is a leading advisor to the agriculture and food industry on farm animal issues, serves as a national spokesperson and has provided hundreds of presentations and media interviews on related matters. She is a frequent guest lecturer to university classes focused on agriculture, agroterrorism and animal law. Ms. Johnson Smith also serves on the Virginia Board of Agriculture and engages frequently with international organizations. She has previously served on the boards of the National Ag Day Coalition, Project Food, Land & People, and both the National and Virginia Ag in the Classroom organizations.

Ms. Johnson Smith is a graduate of James Madison University with degrees in political science and public/business administration.

Dr. Mike Siemens

Senior Vice President- Global Animal Welfare Officer
Arrowsight Inc.
Member since 2021

Dr. Mike Siemens currently serves as the senior vice president- Global Animal Welfare Officer of Arrowsight Inc. Dr. Siemens works with major food companies to help them enhance their efforts in the areas of animal welfare and husbandry. Prior to this roll, Dr. Siemens acted as the Global Leader- Animal Welfare and Husbandry for Cargill, the Director of Integrated Meat Technology at Smithfield Foods, and as tenured faculty at the University of Wisconsin as the State Beef Cattle Specialist.

Dr. Siemens is or has been a member of the Animal Welfare Committees for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Board, North American Meat Institute where Dr. Siemens was a past committee chairman. He has been a member of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and additionally advised the US and Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and currently serves or has served on numerous animal welfare advisory boards in North America for companies and organizations in the animal protein industry.

Dr. Siemens obtained his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Missouri, his B.S. from Purdue University, and was raised on a diversified farming operation in Northern Indiana.

Dr. Randall S. Singer

Professor of Epidemiology
University of Minnesota
Member since 2021

Dr. Randall S. Singer is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Singer’s research and educational program has focused on predicting the emergence, spread and persistence of infectious diseases. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Zoonoses and Public Health.

In 2020 Dr. Singer published papers on the use of antimicrobials in the U.S. poultry industry that covered approximately 90% of U.S. chicken production and 80% of U.S. turkey production. Dr. Singer has spoken twice to the U.S. House of Representatives on this topic and served as a voting member of the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria from 2015 to 2019. Between 2006 and 2010 he served on the U.S. Delegation to the Codex Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance and served again on the U.S. Delegation to this renewed Task Force that held its third meeting in December 2019. In 2000 Dr. Singer was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Clinton for his work on antibiotic resistance. Since that time, he has devoted most of his research program to this topic.

Dr. Singer received his DVM and MPVM from University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from University of California, Davis.

Hannah Thompson-Weeman

President & CEO
Animal Agriculture Alliance
Member since 2022

Ms. Hannah Thompson-Weeman is president and CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. In her role, Ms. Thompson-Weeman provides strategic direction to the organization and oversees its operations along with engaging key stakeholders about the value of animal agriculture and providing guidance to the animal agriculture community. She joined the Alliance in 2014 and has served in various leadership roles involving communications, issues management and strategic engagement.

Ms. Thompson-Weeman’s work has been recognized with the NextGen Award (2021) and the Public Relations Professional Development Award (2019) from the National AgriMarketing Association, the Young Alumni Award (2020) from The Ohio State University Department of Agricultural Communications, Education and Leadership and the Outstanding Alumni Award (2018) from the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow.

Ms. Thompson-Weeman holds a B.S. in agricultural communication with a minor in agricultural business and an M.S. in agricultural and extension education from The Ohio State University. While pursuing her education, she completed an undergraduate thesis based on agricultural policy and a graduate thesis focused on crisis communications and planning within the dairy community.

Dr. Dan U. Thomson

Professor of Animal Science
Iowa State University
Member since 2021

Dr. Dan U. Thomson is a Professor of the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University and a third-generation bovine veterinarian. Dr. Thomson is an owner/partner in PAC veterinary and research services which oversees the veterinary care, health and well-being for 25% of the cattle on feed in the United States. He is recognized internationally as a leader in animal welfare, beef cattle production and cattle health management.

Dr. Thomson is the founder and host of Doc Talk, a nationally aired beef cattle health veterinary show on television. Dr. Thomson previously held the Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Thomson created, founded and directed the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. He has served as the Global Co-leader for McDonald’s Beef Health and Welfare Committee, YUM! Animal Welfare Council, chairs the Animal Welfare Committee of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and serves on the Animal Welfare Advisory Board of Tyson Fresh Meats.

Dr. Thomson received his DVM and B.S. in animal science from Iowa State University. Dr. Thomson completed his Ph.D. in ruminant nutrition from Texas Tech University and a M.S. in ruminant nutrition from South Dakota State University.