Today, Nestlé announced a pledge to improve the welfare of the farm animals in its supply chain, following the signature of a partnership agreement with NGO World Animal Protection.
The agreement means that the hundreds of thousands of farms that supply Nestlé with their dairy, meat, poultry and eggs will have to comply with tighter animal welfare standards. Nestlé, with its global purchasing footprint, also becomes the first major food company to form an international partnership with an animal welfare NGO.
The partnership and pledge follow the release of hidden-camera video taken in December 2013 by watchdog group Mercy for Animals at a Nestlé dairy supplier in Wisconsin, which reportedly showed the brutal mistreatment of cows; in response, Nestlé spokesperson Deborah Cross told the Chicago Tribune that the company was "outraged and deeply saddened by the mistreatment of animals shown in this video” and would no longer accept cheese made from milk from the offending farm.
World Animal Protection, which has been working with governments, communities and international agencies to improve animal welfare for more than 50 years, welcomed the new standard.
“Our decision to work with Nestlé is based upon their clear commitment to improving animal welfare and the lasting change this can have on millions of farm animals around the world,” said CEO Mike Baker.
‘Highest possible standards’
Nestlé says it has some 7,300 suppliers from whom it buys animal-derived products directly - including milk for its range of yogurts and ice creams, meat for its chilled foods and eggs for its fresh pastry and pasta. Each of these suppliers, in turn, buys from others, meaning that Nestlé’s Responsible Sourcing Guidelines apply to literally hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.
“We know that our consumers care about the welfare of farm animals and we, as a company, are committed to ensuring the highest possible levels of farm animal welfare across our global supply chain,” said Benjamin Ware, Nestlé’s Manager of Responsible Sourcing.
World Animal Protection has been working with Nestlé on how to specifically tighten and improve the Nestlé Responsible Sourcing Guideline , to which all suppliers must adhere as part of the Nestlé Supplier Code. Both of these build upon the Nestlé Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare . These now include, for example, spacing requirements for the rearing pens of certain species of animals, such as pigs and cows, to ensure a comfortable range of movement and the ability to engage in “normal animal behavior.”
In addition, following the involvement of World Animal Protection, Nestlé’s guidelines also seek to minimize pain for farm animals by using veterinary practices that reduce pain, or avoiding the practices in the first place through the use of different animal husbandry practices - for example, the practice of dehorning bulls so they do not injure other cows.
Nestlé has commissioned an independent auditor, SGS, to carry out checks to ensure the new standards of animal welfare are met on its supplying farms. In 2014, several hundred farm assessments have already been carried out worldwide. Some of these checks are also attended, unannounced, by World Animal Protection representatives whose role is to verify the auditors.
When a violation is identified, Nestlé will work with the supplier to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they meet the required standards. If, despite engagement and guidance from Nestlé, the company is unable or unwilling to show improvement, it will no longer supply Nestlé.
The World Animal Protection agreement forms part of Nestlé’s broader Responsible Sourcing activities. These cover human rights, health and safety and environmental issues, and build upon multiple commitments, including a pledge that by the end of next year, 40 percent of the company’s key commodities - including meat, poultry, eggs and dairy - will be fully traceable, and 100 percent of its cocoa will be sustainably sourced.