The food industry is not properly managing or reporting on farm animal welfare, and a majority of global food companies have yet to even publish a formal animal welfare policy, according to a report by Business Benchmark on Animal Welfare.
The program’s eponymous report on 68 global food companies says farm animal welfare gets “nothing like the attention” that other corporate responsibility issues are receiving.
While over 70 percent of the companies covered by the assessment acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue, only 46 percent have published a formal farm animal welfare policy, only 41 percent describe how their board or senior management oversee their approach to farm animal welfare, and just 26 percent have published objectives and targets for farm animal welfare.
Despite the lack of action, BBAW describes the business case for companies and their investors to be concerned about farm animal welfare as “compelling.” Regulation, in particular within the European Union, as well as consumer concern, pressure from animal welfare NGOs, and media concerns about poor corporate practices mean that farm animal welfare is an important business risk and an increasingly important driver of investment value, according to BBAW.
However, there are pockets of good practice and some clear leaders, notably the Co-operative Group, Noble Foods and Unilever, the report says.
In January, professional services company Aramark announced plans to source all of its shell eggs in the United States from cage-free hens by the end of 2014. Aramark’s announcement came after its commitment last August to eliminate the use of pig gestation crates in its US supply chain by 2017.
Aramark’s announcement follows on the heels of similar moves within the food industry. In December last year, Safeway, the second-largest US grocery chain, announced it had become the first major national retailer to require that all of its organic and cage-free egg suppliers be “certified humane” by the nonprofit third-party label organization Humane Farm Animal Care.
In September last year, Dunkin’ Donuts announced plans to switch to cage-free eggs in its breakfast sandwiches and to eliminate the use of pork from gestation crates. In April Burger King pledged to transition its US supply chain to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2017 and only purchase pork from suppliers that can demonstrate documented plans to end their use of gestation crates.