Behavior Change
US Food Companies Continue Making Gains in Farm Animal Welfare

Every year, nearly 70 billion animals are farmed for food. With rising public awareness of the way animals are raised for food, animal health and welfare is an increasingly important area for businesses today — particularly for consumer-facing brands. Now in its fifth year, the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) provides companies with a clear set of expectations on farm animal welfare management practice and reporting, enabling them to benchmark themselves against industry peers and to progressively drive up welfare standards in their supply chains.

BBFAW released its 2016 report earlier this week at a stakeholder launch event hosted by Morgan Stanley. Of the 99 companies reviewed, 28 are based in the United States.

This year’s report, which is compiled in collaboration with animal welfare organizations Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection and investment firm Coller Capital, reveals that companies are increasingly focusing more attention and resources on farm animal welfare within their supply chains. Examples of this shift include:

  • 76 percent of US companies have now published farm animal welfare policies, compared to 46 percent of all companies assessed in 2012;
  • 66 percent of US companies have published targets on farm animal welfare, up 40 percent from 2012; and
  • US have shown the greatest improvements in overall performance relative to other markets, rising from an average score of 29 percent in 2015 to 36 percent in 2016 — a significant increase compared to marginal increases for UK companies (48 percent to 51 percent) and European companies (27 percent to 29 percent) in the same period.

Thirteen US companies, including Cargill and McDonald’s, currently occupy leadership positions in the Benchmark’s top two tiers, reserved for companies that demonstrate strong commitments to farm animal welfare and have established management systems and processes. Wendy’s and Sysco have advanced one tier since 2016 to join Subway, Tyson, Walmart and Hormel in Tier 3. Kraft-Heinz was evaluated for the first time and occupies the sixth, and lowest, tier.

“We congratulate companies in Tier 1 and 2 for their exemplary approach to farm animal welfare management and disclosure,” said Nicky Amos, BBFAW Executive Director. “Their leadership is encouraging more companies to formalize their commitments on animal welfare and improve their reporting practices.”

Amos also noted that: “Despite this progress, 42 of the 99 companies — including Restaurant Brands International, Domino’s Pizza Group Plc, and Starbucks Corporation — appear in Tiers 5 and 6, which demonstrates that there is still much work to be done to get farm animal welfare on the business agenda of many large global food companies.”

With its Benchmark, BBFAW aims to progressively increase corporate emphasis on performance measurement and reporting of several key animal welfare areas, such as the proportion of animals that are free from intensive confinement.

“We have seen a considerable increase in disclosure from US food companies on their animal welfare policies,” said Rachel Dreskin, US Head of Food Business for Compassion in World Farming. “In the coming years, we expect to see more focus on progress reporting and the impact that these policies are having on the animals.”

The report also highlights the important role of investors in driving improvements in practice and process across the food industry. As the influence of global investment companies continues to grow, the BBFAW serves as an increasingly essential tool to prove investors with the objective, year-on-year performance assessment necessary to understand the business implications of farm animal welfare.

“The Benchmark shows that investors are key agents of change,” said Rory Sullivan, BBFAW advisor. “They are sending a clear signal that they expect food companies to effectively manage the systemic risks and opportunities posed by farm and animal welfare, and it is clear that companies are responding to these expectations.”


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