Major U.S. food companies trailing UK businesses on farm animal welfare

February 23 2018

Despite some company improvements, farm animals are still suffering at the hands of global food brands. We urge all retailers to be inspired by the new farm animal welfare report, and do better for animals

The biggest global measure of farm animal welfare, Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW), ranks 110 food companies across 18 countries, and places them one of in six tiers: tier one being the best, and tier six the worst. 

We launched the BBFAW ranking in 2012, along with fellow animal welfare organization, Compassion in World Farming. Investment company Coller Capital joined the partnership in 2014. 

No U.S. food companies are ranked in the BBFAW’s top tier, trailing international leaders Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Co-Op Group (Switzerland), Cranswick, and Migros.

Chickens need enough space to display a variation of natural behaviors like scratching, preening, and dust-bathing.

While numerous restaurant chains, including Panera Bread, have made groundbreaking commitments for farm animal welfare over the last three years, many U.S.-based food companies appear in the lowest two tiers of the Benchmark, indicating that farm animal welfare has yet to be addressed there as a major business issue.

In fact, the average Benchmark score for U.S. companies in the 2017 Benchmark was 34%, compared to 58% for UK companies and 37% for all global companies, indicating that more progress is needed for animal welfare in farming in the U.S. Each company ranked in the BBFAW is assigned a score for their animal welfare policy and practices, with higher scores indicating superior rankings. 

“U.S. consumers have shown over and over again that farm animal welfare is a priority for them,” says Alesia Soltanpanah, U.S. Executive Director at World Animal Protection. 

“We hope that U.S. food businesses will build on the progress made for farm animals globally by introducing strong animal welfare policies and phasing out harmful practices in favor of humane alternatives. Kinder farming isn’t just possible – it’s crucial.”

Improvements sorely needed

The BBFAW shows that improvements are sorely needed by many household names, which sit towards the bottom of the ranking.

Brands such as KFC (in tier 5) show limited evidence that animal welfare is a key issue for their business at all, while fast-food favorites Subway and Burger King both rank in tier 4.

Perdue Farms, one of America’s leading poultry producers, was included in the BBFAW’s rankings for the first time, and is ranked at Tier 2.

Perdue has demonstrated national leadership in farm animal welfare, with its introduction of a comprehensive policy and clear processes in place for its implementation through its supply chain and transparent updates on its progress externally.

10 day old broiler (meat) chickens in caged systems.

Panera Bread has improved its performance in the 2017 Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, rising from Tier 4 to Tier 3, reflecting the company’s established approach to farm animal welfare with room for improvement.

Panera has a comprehensive farm animal welfare policy and reports annually on its progress. The company has committed to using only cage-free eggs in its US supply chain by 2020 and has also committed to improving the welfare of meat chickens.

Surprisingly, mega-brands Mars Inc and Muller both rank at the bottom in tier 6, providing limited, if any evidence that they recognize acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue.

“Our aim with this report is always to encourage better disclosure of companies’ animal welfare standards — which will encourage others to act. U.S. companies with global reach, like Mars, Kraft Heinz, and Starbucks are really trailing behind," Soltanpanah continues.

"We hope to see them and others working hard to improve standards for farm animals, and rise up the ranks in future years.”

The report shows that many of the 110 global food companies covered by the Benchmark are integrating farm animal welfare into their management and reporting processes.

  • 47% of these companies now have explicit board or senior management oversight of farm animal welfare.
  • 72% have published formal improvement objectives for farm animal welfare.
  • 87 companies (79%) have made commitments to the avoidance of close confinement in one or more of the major markets in which they operate. The most common corporate commitments relate to the elimination of cages for laying hens and the elimination of sow stalls.

Pigs are intelligent, charismatic and social animals that instinctively need to forage and explore their environment. Trapped in barren environments, without enrichment or materials to play with and root around, they will suffer stress and boredom leading to psychological trauma and physical problems.

Here’s how some of the companies ranked:  

Tier 1: Co-op Group, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Migros 
Tier 2: McDonald's, Tesco, Unilever, J Sainsbury 
Tier 3: Aldi, Domino's Pizza Company, Nestlé, Panera, Walmart, JD Wetherspoon 
Tier 4: Carrefour, Lidl, General Mills, Wendy's, Subway, Chipotle Mexican Grill 
Tier 5: Chick-fil-A, Kraft Heinz, Starbucks, Target, Yum! Brands 
Tier 6: Müller Group, Mars, Autogrill, Seven & I Holdings 

Help make a change for chickens

Act now by clicking here and adding your name to a growing list of people who wish to end the secret suffering of chickens.

"Kinder farming isn’t just possible – it’s crucial.”
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