British firms top farm animal welfare approach table

Herd of dairy cows

© John Eveson/FLPA/Rex Shutterstock

How UK companies lined up

  • Tier 1: Leadership: Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Noble Foods
  • Tier 2: Integrated into business strategy: The Cooperative Food, J Sainsbury, Cranswick
  • Tier 3: Established, but work to be done: Greggs, Tesco, Whitbread, Compass Group
  • Tier 4: Making progress on implementation: 2 Sisters Food Group, Elior, Mitchells & Butlers, Premier Foods, Morrisons
  • Tier 5: On the business agenda, but limited evidence of implementation: Dairy Crest
  • Tier 6: No evidence that on the business agenda: Associated British Foods (ABF), JD Wetherspoon, Domino’s Pizza Group

Britain has topped a table rating food industry approaches to farm animal welfare reporting and management.

Egg supplier Noble Foods, retailers Marks & Spencer and Waitrose and Swiss company the Coop Group attained the highest scores in the fourth annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) report.

Published today, the report assessed how 90 of the world’s leading food companies, including 19 from the UK and 23 from the US, are managing and reporting their farm animal welfare policies and practices.

Each was given a percentage score, which took into account management commitment and policy, governance and management, innovation, and performance reporting. Based on their score, each company was ranked in one of six tiers (see right).

See also: Red tape and lack of co-ordination scuppering livestock sector

Six of the eleven companies that made the two top tiers were British.

With a score of more than 80%, Marks & Spencer, Noble Foods, Waitrose and the Coop Group were placed in the top tier.

Alongside Unilever, McDonald’s, Marfrig and Migros, with scores of between 62% and 80%, British retailers Cooperative Food and J Sainsbury and pork producer and processor Cranswick were deemed to have integrated such practices into their business strategies.

The 11 companies making up the top two tiers “have made strong commitments to farm animal welfare, have well-development management systems and processes, and have a clear focus on farm animal welfare performance measures,” said the report.

What they were ranked on

Armed with a list of questions covering the four core areas, those behind the report reviewed information published by each company, including websites, annual reports, and CSR reports.

Companies were scored on whether they have in place an overarching corporate farm animal welfare policy, and specific policies on issues such as close confinement, genetic engineering or cloning, routine mutilations, antibiotic use, slaughter without stunning and long distance live transportation.

They also looked for company involvement in schemes to improve farm animal welfare and initiatives to promote welfare among customers and clients.

Company reporting on farm animal welfare outcome and performance measures was also taken into account.

While a “consolidated and organised account for their approach to farm animal welfare” was offered by Tesco, it was deemed that there is “work to be done”.

According to the report, 66% of the 90 companies assessed now have published farm animal welfare policies, compared to 46% in 2012.

Targets on farm animal welfare have also been published 54%, up from 26% in 2012.

“The results show that it is realistic for companies across the world and in all sub-sectors (retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, bars and producers) to aspire to and achieve high scores in the Benchmark and to recognise the responsibility they hold for the welfare of animals in their supply chain,” said Nicky Amos, executive director, BBFAW.