The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare has released a report that reveals animal welfare is not being properly managed and reported by the food industry. The BBFAW is the first global measure of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment, and disclosure in food companies and is designed for use by investors, companies, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders interested in understanding the relative performance of food companies in this area. In total, 68 companies provided an objective account of the state of farm animal welfare as a business issue. They represented the three primary business sectors: food retailers and wholesalers, restaurants and bars, and food producers and manufacturers.
The report reveals that many companies in the food industry are not effectively managing the business risks or opportunities associated with animal welfare, and that a majority has yet to report on how they are managing farm animal welfare. The report was developed based on farm animal welfare information published in annual reports, corporate websites, press releases, and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports by food companies in the retail, production, and service sectors.
“The central conclusion from our research is that farm animal welfare is receiving nothing like the attention that other corporate responsibility issues are receiving,” says Business Benchmark program director Nicky Amos. “While over 70 percent of the companies covered by our assessment acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue, many have yet to publish a formal policy and fewer still have set out the specific commitments that underpin this area. Of the 68 companies, 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.”
Companies were measured on their approach to managing farm welfare across three pillars: management commitment and policy, governance and policy implementation, and leadership and innovation.
Overall findings suggest that farm animal welfare as a business issue is still in its infancy, but there are several companies, such as Unilever, The Co-operative Food (UK), Sainsbury’s, and Noble Foods that have made significant efforts to prioritize farm animal welfare as a business issue. Unilever’s Sustainable Agriculture Code outlines a commitment to the Five Freedoms (a universal framework for analyzing animal welfare), and The Co-operative Food publishes details of its supply chain auditing to basic and higher animal welfare standards.
Animal welfare awareness may become a bigger trend in the next year, says Van Eure, owner/operator of Angus Barn in Raleigh, N.C.
“I think sustainability and concern for the welfare of animals will become even more important,” she told FSR in a January interview. “All of the beef we get is from Kansas. Our cows are very happy cows, and we will not buy anything that doesn’t die humanely.”