Animal welfare is important to European consumers. Nowadays, food quality is not only determined by the overall nature and safety of the end product, but also by the perceived welfare status of the animals from which the food is produced. It is recognised that improving animal welfare can positively affect product quality, pathology and disease resistance, and that it has a direct bearing on food quality and safety. Companies are taking animal welfare seriously, recognising the responsibility they hold for the welfare of animals in their supply chains. Noble Foods, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Coop Group (Switzerland) have attained the highest marks in the recent fourth global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare report.
The organisation behind the publication, the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW), provides an annual review of how 90 of the world’s leading food companies are managing and reporting their farm animal welfare policies and practices. Overall, the results show that it is realistic for companies across the world and in all sectors—from retailers to wholesalers, restaurants, bars and producers— to aspire to and achieve high scores in the Benchmark.
Currently, 11 companies occupy leadership positions in the Benchmark’s top two tiers. These companies demonstrate the strongest commitments to farm animal welfare and have well developed management systems and processes. They include Marks & Spencer, Coop Group (Switzerland), Waitrose and Noble Foods in Tier 1, and The Co-operative Food (U.K.), J Sainsbury, Unilever, Cranswick, Marfrig, McDonald’s and Migros in Tier 2.
Some of the findings reveal that things are changing quickly for the better, as companies are acknowledging the importance attached to farm animal welfare. Now, 69 percent of companies have published farm animal welfare policies, compared to just 46 percent in 2012. Fifty-four percent of companies have published targets on farm animal welfare, up from 26 percent in 2012. However, the overall progress made since 2012, is still incomplete, as 40 percent of companies such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza Group (U.K.) and Starbucks provide little or no information on their approach to farm animal welfare.
There is hope that situation should change soon, as the report highlights the growing influence of global investment companies on farm animal welfare. For the first time, global investors are actively engaging with companies to encourage them to improve their practices and report on farm animal welfare. The annual Benchmark provides a strong incentive for companies to improve their disclosure and to account for their performance. By creating more public and investor awareness and understanding of risks and opportunities posed by farm animal welfare, the BBFAW annual reviews will, over time, reflect sustained progress. Farm animal welfare will be taking a larger place on the business agenda of many large global food companies.
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