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Businesses commit to welfare improvements but are slow to action

News Section Icon Published 4/25/2024

Cows grazing. One is looking ahead at the camera. Image has a green filter over it.

Today, the latest Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW)  has revealed that while most global food giants (95%) are addressing the importance of animal welfare with policy commitments, the majority are not yet putting these commitments into practice.

The benchmark, which was first launched in 2012, ranks 150 global food producers, retailers and food-service companies – including McDonalds, Tesco and Tyson Foods – on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. BBFAW is supported by us along with FOUR PAWS and a coalition of institutional investors, managing over $1.9 trillion in assets who will engage with the companies in the year ahead to drive improvement.

Relaunched report beefs up animal welfare criteria

Following a period of development, BBFAW has been relaunched with tougher assessment criteria setting a new baseline for animal welfare improvement. Notably, there is an increased focus on ‘Performance Impact’, measuring how well companies are delivering on their welfare commitments. For example, progress on issues such as the time farm animals spend in transit or, or the percent of a supply chain that is cage free.

For the first time, businesses have also been asked about their recognition of the need to reduce reliance on animal-sourced foods and diversify into alternative proteins.

Global companies ranked on commitments and implementation

The key insights from the report include that:

  • 95% of global food companies now recognise ‘farm animal welfare’ as a core business issue, with Marks & Spencer (UK), Premier Foods (UK) and Waitrose (UK) as the highest-ranked companies in ‘Tier 2’. As expected none achieved the highest ‘Tier 1’ status following the toughening of the methodology. 
  • 93% of companies were given a poor ‘E’ or ‘F’ rating for ‘Performance Impact’ – a measure of whether farm animals in their supply chains are actually protected from inhumane practices such as close confinement or routine mutilation.  Companies with the lowest ‘F’ impact rating include Amazon Whole Foods (US), Domino’s Pizza Inc (US), Müller (DE) and Tyson Foods (US).
  • No companies achieved the highest rating of ‘A’ or 'B’ for ‘Performance Impact’. The companies rated most highly in ‘C’ were: Marks & Spencer (UK), Groupe Danone (FR), Premier Foods (UK), Waitrose (UK), Cranswick PLC (UK) and Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund (Switzerland)
  • 19 global food companies, including Domino’s Pizza Inc (US) and Yum China Holdings (the owners of KFC in China), have yet to publish a formal farm animal welfare policy.
  • 25% of benchmarked companies recognise the need to reduce reliance on animal sourced foods and diversify into alternative proteins, with 21 companies including Greggs, Sodexo and Carrefour publishing time-bound targets. 
  • A $2.3 trillion investor coalition is set to engage with food companies about the BBFAW results. “Poor standards of farm animal welfare don’t just harm animals, they threaten long-term value, risking outbreaks of disease, food recalls, regulatory and reputational risks,” said Abigail Herron, Aviva Investors, part of the investor coalition.

More to be done

The benchmark shows that work needs to be done on specific animal welfare issues, including:

  • Routine mutilation: A majority of companies (52%) have no policy to manage routine mutilations - such as branding cattle with hot irons or tail docking in pigs.
  • Live transport: Only 27% of assessed companies report that live transportation of farm animals is restricted to short journeys only (i.e. 4 hours or less for poultry and rabbits, and 8 hours for other species).
  • Antibiotics: Only 40% of companies have commitments in place to end prophylactic and routine metaphylactic antibiotic use – despite the risk of surging antibiotic resistance.
  • Close confinement: Only 18% of companies, including Tyson Foods and WH Group (which includes large US pork producer Smithfield) have no policy commitment to end the use of close confinement. And just 9% of companies with pigs in their supply chain (13 of 137 companies) have set credible targets to end the use of ‘sow stalls’ or ‘gestation crates’ – metal enclosures barely bigger than an adult pig.

Our Global CEO, Philip Lymbery said: "The Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare continues to play a critical role in driving higher standards in the world's leading food businesses, showing the benefits of this approach, and providing a vital yardstick to inform investor choices."



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