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Press Release Section Icon 4/25/2024

The latest Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) reveals that while most global food giants (95%) are addressing the importance of animal welfare with policy commitments, the majority are not yet putting these commitments into practice.

The benchmark, which was first launched in 2012, ranks 150 global food producers, retailers and food-service companies – including McDonalds, Tesco and Tyson Foods – on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. It is supported by partners Compassion in World Farming and FOUR PAWS and by a coalition of institutional investors, managing over $2.3 trillion in assets who will engage with the companies in the year ahead to drive improvement.

Following a period of development, BBFAW has been relaunched with tougher assessment criteria setting a new baseline for animal welfare improvement. Notably, there is an increased focus on ‘Performance Impact’, measuring how well companies are delivering on their welfare commitments. For example, progress on issues such as the time farm animals spend in transit or the percentage of a supply chain that is cage-free.

For the first time, businesses have also been asked about their recognition of the need to reduce reliance on animal-sourced foods and diversify into alternative proteins.

The key insights from the report include that:

  • 95% of global food companies now recognize ‘farm animal welfare’ as a core business issue, with Marks & Spencer (UK), Premier Foods (UK) and Waitrose (UK) as the highest-ranked companies in ‘Tier 2’. As expected, none achieved the highest ‘Tier 1’ status following the toughening of the methodology.
  • 93% of companies were given a poor ‘E’ or ‘F’ rating for ‘Performance Impact’ – a measure of whether farm animals in their supply chains are actually protected from inhumane practices such as close confinement or routine mutilation.  Companies with the lowest ‘F’ impact rating include Amazon Whole Foods (US), Domino’s Pizza Inc (US), Müller (DE) and Tyson Foods (US).
  • No companies achieved the highest rating of ‘A’ or 'B’ for ‘Performance Impact’. The companies rated most highly in ‘C’ were: Marks & Spencer (UK), Groupe Danone (FR), Premier Foods (UK), Waitrose (UK), Cranswick PLC (UK) and Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund (Switzerland)
  • 19 global food companies, including Domino’s Pizza Inc (US) and Yum China Holdings (the owners of KFC in China), have yet to publish a formal farm animal welfare policy.
  • 25% of benchmarked companies recognize the need to reduce reliance on animal sourced foods and diversify into alternative proteins, with 21 companies including Greggs, Sodexo and Carrefour publishing time-bound targets.
  • A $2.3 trillion investor coalition is set to engage with food companies about the BBFAW results. “Poor standards of farm animal welfare don’t just harm animals, they threaten long-term value, risking outbreaks of disease, food recalls, regulatory and reputational risks,” said Abigail Herron, Aviva Investors, part of the investor coalition.

There is also work to be done to address specific animal welfare issues, including:

  • Routine mutilation: A majority of companies (52%) have no policy to manage routine mutilations - such as branding cattle with hot irons or tail docking in pigs.
  • Live transport: Only 27% of assessed companies report that live transportation of farm animals is restricted to short journeys only (i.e. 4 hours or less for poultry and rabbits, and 8 hours for other species).
  • Antibiotics: Only 40% of companies have commitments in place to end prophylactic and routine metaphylactic antibiotic use – despite the risk of surging antibiotic resistance.
  • Close confinement: Only 18% of companies, including Tyson Foods and WH Group (which includes large US pork producer Smithfield) have no policy commitment to end the use of close confinement. And just 9% of companies with pigs in their supply chain (13 of 137 companies) have set credible targets to end the use of ‘sow stalls’ or ‘gestation crates’ – metal enclosures barely bigger than an adult pig.

Nicky Amos, Executive Director of the BBFAW said: “The BBFAW results show that for 95% of food companies protecting farm animal welfare is not about businesses doing good; it’s about good business. The Benchmark’s criteria have been strengthened in 2024, so it’s encouraging that several companies, including the three that achieved ‘Tier 2’ status, are leading by example and showing that high levels of progress are possible.

"It’s also highly encouraging that 1 in 4 food companies recognizes the need to innovate to reduce reliance on animal-sourced foods as part of long-term plans to create sustainable food supply chains. Today’s analysis shows there’s also a long way to go for the food sector to turn awareness and commitment into demonstrable animal welfare benefits, with large numbers of farmed animals still suffering from inhumane practices such as close confinement or routine mutilations.”

Philip Lymbery, Global Chief Executive, Compassion in World Farming, said: “There’s a high cost to poor animal husbandry. It not only harms animals but fuels the climate crisis, drives deforestation, biodiversity loss and - with its massive use of antibiotics - poses a real threat to human health. The Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare continues to play a critical role in driving higher standards in the world’s leading food businesses, showing the benefits of this approach, and providing a vital yardstick to inform investor choices.”

Josef Pfabigan, CEO Four Paws, added: “After a year’s break, it is good to see the BBFAW report coming back strongly, as 2024 marks a pivotal year for animals with many elections around the globe highlighting the importance of improved legislation on animal welfare. FOUR PAWS’ vision is a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. More food companies need to work towards the same goal, which is a reduction in produced animals.

"Progress on this goal helps reduce the enormous suffering billions of farm animals are facing, especially in the Global North. It also helps fight a key driver of the climate crisis as animal agriculture makes up around a sixth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, FOUR PAWS supports BBFAW’s work to encourage higher animal welfare and an immediate transition towards sustainable and cruelty-free food systems globally. Only together are we able to achieve that.”

The full report is available here.


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