Retailers and food service companies are moving too slowly on farmed animal welfare: Report
Major food companies are severely lacking on animal welfare standards, but many smaller companies are making progress, according to the latest Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW).
This eighth BBFAW report, launched by us and Compassion in World Farming, is the leading global measure of corporate action on farm animal welfare. It ranks 150 global food companies on farm animal welfare standards across six tiers. Tier 1 is at the top, demonstrating leadership on farm animal welfare, and Tier 6 is at the bottom, indicating that companies have yet to acknowledge animal welfare as a business issue.
Consumer demand is moving companies to improve
Consumer interest and growing momentum for companies to take an interest in animal welfare is the main reason why many of the world’s most influential food companies are showing a willingness to change, which is why company performance in the benchmark continues to improve year on year. As many as 30 companies have improved their tier ranking in the latest benchmark. However, the report also warns that progress is still too slow for the nearly 40% of companies who appear in the two bottom tiers. These companies are providing little or no information about how they are managing the risks and opportunities associated with farm animal welfare.
This is a reminder that as a consumer, your voice counts. We all must keep holding these companies to account.
How do Canadian companies stack up?
Canadian companies assessed in the report include:
- Maple Leaf Foods
- Restaurant Brands International (which owns Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes)
- Saputo Inc
- Empire Company/Sobey’s
At the top is Maple Leaf Foods in Tier 3, which is an improvement from last year’s ranking of Tier 4. At the bottom is the Quebec grocery chain Couche-Tard that landed in Tier 6.
In Canada, Maple Leaf Foods is leading the way on farm animal welfare. As a new company in the BBFAW just two years ago, they were ranked at Tier 4. The are now at Tier 3 which indicates they are well-established in implementing animal welfare changes, but they still have work to do. They are progressing well on transitioning breeding sows (adult female pigs used for breeding) out of confinement housing (gestation crates) into group housing, and are also committed to providing pigs with enrichments. As one of Canada’s largest pork producers, they have an opportunity to continue to lead the way on pig welfare. We encourage them to end the painful practices of tail-docking and castration and continue to work towards providing pigs with high-quality enrichments such a straw.
Now is the time for companies to act
This is a difficult period for many businesses, but farm animal welfare is a long-term issue where changes in sourcing decisions happen over time. Now is the time for companies to initiate decisions that will lead to long-term animal-welfare improvements in their supply chains.
The COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest alarm bell that we need to change our relationship with animals. Keeping thousands of animals in cramped and crowded conditions, where they are stressed and potentially immunocompromised, can lead to the emergence of novel viruses that jump to humans. Companies must act now to make long-term change
We encourage companies to continue down the path of improvement. Better conditions for rearing meat (broiler) chickens, including the adoption of slower-growing breeds, and meat (growing pigs), including an end to painful physical alterations such as castration and tail-docking, are needed. Animals suffer stress and boredom living in barren, crowded conditions. They need sufficient space and enrichments to satisfy their behavioural needs.
Consumers can also help by reducing the demand for meat and thereby the need for companies to raise millions of animals every year on intensive farms. Eating several meatless meals a week is better for animals, your health and the planet.