Cranswick tops Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare for the second consecutive year

British Food Producer, Cranswick retained its top tier ranking in the sixth annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, launched today (22 February) at the London Stock Exchange.
calendar icon 22 February 2018
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They were the only producer to be listed in Tier 1 which was otherwise dominated by the retail sector with Co-op Group (Switzerland), Marks & Spencer, Migros and Waitrose also maintaining their positions as global leaders on farm animal welfare. However, the sector that showed most improvement in its overall performance was foodservice. In previous years it has significantly lagged behind the retailer & wholesale and producer & manufacturer sectors, but in the 2017 Report, the restaurants & bars sector has successfully closed the gap.

The foodservice sector’s average score rose from 27% in 2016 to 34% this year while the retailer & wholesaler and producer & manufacturer sub-sectors saw their respective scores stand at 37% and 38% (versus 36% and 39% respectively in 2016).

Commenting on the overall findings, Nicky Amos, executive director of BBFAW noted: “Perhaps the most significant change relative to the 2016 Benchmark is the dramatically improved performance of the restaurants and bars sector. Our discussions with companies in the sector suggest that this improvement is being driven by increased client and consumer interest in farm animal welfare, and by NGO, media and investor pressure on these companies to make public commitments on specific animal welfare issues (e.g. on cage-free eggs, on broiler chicken welfare, on reductions in the use of antibiotics).”

The Benchmark, which is supported by leading animal welfare organisations, Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection, and investment firm, Coller Capital shows that many of the 110 global food companies (11 more than in 2016) covered by the Benchmark are integrating farm animal welfare into their management and reporting processes. For example, 47% of these companies now have explicit board or senior management oversight of farm animal welfare, and 72% have published formal improvement objectives for farm animal welfare.

There’s no doubt the Benchmark provides a solid framework for companies on which to build and improve their performance and it is driving change. However, there is still much work to be done as the overall average score (at 37%) remains fairly low, and 41 out of 110 companies still appear in Tiers 5 and 6, indicating that they provide little or no information on their approach to farm animal welfare.

A total of 40 producer and manufacturing companies from across Europe, the USA, Asia and Australasia were included in this year’s Benchmark with 25 non-movers, four new entries, seven producers rising at least one tier and four companies, Noble Foods, Ferrero, Mars and New Hope Group, falling a tier.

Cranswick retained their top ranking for the second consecutive year demonstrating a strong commitment to animal welfare across its own operations and throughout its supply chain in the UK and globally. It has clear positions on the avoidance of close confinement for laying hens, sows, and beef cattle, the avoidance of routine mutilations, the reduction of antibiotic usage, the avoidance of animals that have been subjected to genetic engineering or cloning, long-distance transport and pre-slaughter stunning. While Cranswick has set, and reports on, targets relating to these issues, it also reports on its performance across a range of other animal welfare related metrics.

2 Sisters Food Group moved up a tier from Tier 4 to Tier 3 in this year’s Benchmark. A Tier 3 ranking acknowledges the company’s efforts but underlines the fact there is still more work to be done across the board. The company has a detailed overarching farm animal welfare policy including a clear Antibiotics Policy & Strategy for poultry, and a universal commitment to the avoidance of animals subject to cloning. All of 2 Sisters Food Group’s poultry, beef and pork products are assured to at least Red Tractor standards (minimum industry standard), and it has published targets relating specifically on the maximum journey times for chicken, beef and lamb and on the proportion of broiler chickens in its global supply chain reared at lower stocking densities. However, the company still needs to provide more detail and clarity on its animal welfare policies and on how its senior management oversees their implementation.

Nick Murray, director of communications, 2 Sisters Food Group commented: “2 Sisters Food Group is committed to relentlessly improving welfare standards. We are determined to be the best in our sector in the production of sustainable, quality livestock, grown to the high standards which our retail customers expect. The latest BBFAW benchmark underlines this commitment as we strive to improve our standards year-on-year.”

Noble Foods fell from Tier 1 to Tier 2 in this year’s Report. The fall this year was because its score was affected by the increased weighting given to performance questions, which will be an area of increased focus in the Benchmark and is likely to affect more companies’ rankings in the future. Noble Foods has made a significant effort to report its performance relating to laying hens in the USA and in the UK in 2017, however their UK commitment for cage-free laying hens only covers 70% of its stock and there is a lack of reporting on the company’s welfare commitments and performance relating to dairy cows that supply ingredients for its Gü product line.

Dr Rory Sullivan, Expert Advisor to BBFAW noted: “It is clear that farm animal welfare is moving from the farm gates to the boardroom. Increasingly, food companies see farm animal welfare as a core risk and a strategic issue, featuring alongside issues such as climate change, water and public health. Despite this, 41 of the 110 companies covered by the Benchmark – a group which includes household names such as Kraft Heinz, Mars Inc. and Starbucks provide very limited information on their approach to farm animal welfare.”

Compassion in World Farming’s CEO, Philip Lymbery, said: “I am encouraged by the growing number of companies embracing animal welfare and making it a priority in their business, and I’m particularly pleased by the step change in attitude from within the restaurants and bars sector this year, which has traditionally lagged behind the retailer and manufacturing sectors. Pressure from consumers, investors, the media and NGOs, is shining a spotlight on farm animal welfare, forcing it up the corporate agenda. I congratulate those companies responding positively and encourage those yet to meet the challenge to start taking action for farm animals in their supply.”

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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