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Setting the benchmark: 2013’s top farm animal welfare European businesses

Dec 10, 2013

Farm animal welfare ranks high on the consumer agenda, with priorities ranging from cage-free hens to cows on grass, but how much is this translating to the business boardroom?

The second European Business Benchmark report on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) is encouraging higher farm animal welfare standards across the food industry.

Supported by WSPA and Compassion in World Farming, the report highlights that food companies are failing to provide reassurance that farm animal welfare-related issues are being addressed.

BBFAW Company Tier Diagram_web-large

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Covering 70 global food businesses, including food retailers, wholesalers, restaurants and food producers, the Benchmark found that while over 70% of these acknowledged farm animal welfare as a business issue, only 56% have published a formal farm animal welfare policy and just 41% have published objectives or targets on farm animal welfare.

Rory Sullivan, Expert Adviser to the Business Benchmark comments, “A key conclusion to be drawn from the 2013 Benchmark is that farm animal welfare continues to be a business and reputational risk that many companies in the food industry are not effectively managing. The fact that over half of the companies covered by the Benchmark provide little or no information on their approach suggests that farm animal welfare remains an immature business issue.”

But there are encouraging signs.

Topping the Company Tier Diagram are Coop Group (Switzerland) and Marks and Spencer (UK) who both place in the Tier 1 Leadership category. WSPA CEO, Mike Baker, says:

“Animal welfare should play an integral part in basic food standards; I think we are seeing more demand from both consumers and regulators for this. The Benchmark’s effectiveness is demonstrated by the significant changes we have seen in company performance in the last year alone, and we hope that will continue year on year.”

Five examples of good farm animal welfare practices

Marks and Spencer’s
Animal Welfare Mission Statement provides information on the company’s policy commitments, setting out the scope of the policy, the specific standards it works to, its expectations of farmers and other suppliers, and its approach to product labelling.

Sainsbury’s is the UK’s largest retailer of Freedom Food products, selling over 60 per cent of all Freedom Food sold in the UK. Around 20 per cent of Sainsbury’s fresh chicken sales are from Freedom Food birds, involving ten million birds reared to higher independent welfare standards.

Unilever has a dedicated Supplier Portal which provides guidance to suppliers on compliance with its Sustainable Agriculture Code. These include detailed implementation guides on Unilever’s Sustainable Livestock, Transport and Slaughter, Sustainable Agriculture Code and Dairy requirements. 

McDonald’s UK  has responded to increased consumer curiosity about where food comes from by launching a search for ‘Quality Scouts’ - independent members of the public who can observe what goes into McDonald’s products and post their reports online. 

Yum! Group subsidiary, KFC, launched its ‘C is for Chicken’ website in early 2013 to engage consumers on its approach to farm animal welfare. The site includes FAQs and a series of videos and case studies involving customers and other third parties visiting production facilities and experiencing the Company’s welfare systems first hand.

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