Retailers are leading the way in terms of farm animal welfare, according to the sixth annual report from the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW).
Coop Switzerland, Marks & Spencer, Migros and Waitrose have retained their positions as the 'global leaders' in this area, however, the BBFAW says that the retail sector, in general, has shown steady year-on-year improvement.
Of the 110 global food companies covered by the benchmark, 47% now have specific board or senior management oversight of farm animal welfare, and 72% have published formal improvement objectives.
"The big change in the retail sector is that companies are moving on from high-level policy commitments and statements to focusing much more on the details of implementation," said Nicky Amos, executive director of BBFAW.
"Our discussions with companies in the sector suggest that this improvement is being driven by client and consumer interest in farm animal welfare, and on specific animal welfare issues, in particular, cage-free eggs, broiler chicken welfare, and the routine use of antibiotics," Amos added.
A total of 40 retail and wholesale companies from across Europe, the US, Asia and Australia were included in this year's benchmark.
The top four – Coop Switzerland, Marks & Spencer, Migros and Waitrose – retained their positions as Tier 1 companies, ahead of the UK's Co-op, Tesco and Sainsbury's, in Tier 2.
The BBFAW noted that having fluctuated between Tiers 2 and 3 over the years, Sainsbury's moved up to Tier 2 this year, indicating that farm animal welfare has become an integral part of its business strategy.
Other big movers include German discounters Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, which both moved up one level, to Tier 3, having worked together on new developments such as a private-label meat range that is focused on high animal welfare standards..
Elsewhere, French retailer Casino moved from Tier 6 to Tier 4, after implementing a new farm animal welfare policy and setting cage-free egg and rabbit targets for a number of its brands.
Dr Rory Sullivan, expert advisor to BBFAW, said, "It is clear that farm animal welfare is moving from the farm gates to the boardroom.
"Increasingly, food companies see farm animal welfare as a core risk and a strategic issue, featuring alongside issues such as climate change, water, and public health," Sullivan added.
The BBFAW is a globally recognised investor framework for assessing the quality of companies' practices, processes and performance on farm animal welfare.
Its benchmark looks at companies across three primary food business sectors: food retailers and wholesalers, restaurants and bars, and food producers and manufacturers.
Tier 1 companies are defined as leaders in this area, and include Coop Switzerland, Cranswick, M&S, Migros and Waitrose.
Tier 2 indicates companies that have animal welfare as an integral part of their business strategy, and includes Cargill, the Co-op, Greggs, Sainsbury's, JBS, McDonald's, Tesco and Unilever.
Tier 3 companies have established policies, but still have 'work to be done', including 2 Sisters Food Group, Aldi Nord, Aldi Sud, Aramark, Arla Foods, FrieslandCampina, Danone, ICA Gruppen, Kaufland, Metro, Nestlé, Rewe, Tyson Foods, Walmart, Morrisons and Woolworths.
Tier 4 represents groups that are 'making progress on implementation', and includes Ahold Delhaize, Carrefour, Casino, Costco, Coop Italia, Ferrero, Fonterra, General Mills, Kroger, Lidl, Loblaw and Subway.
Tier 5 is for companies that have farm animal welfare on their business agenda, but show limited evidence of implementation, such as Associated British Foods, Albertsons, ConAgra, Kraft Heinz, Les Mousquetaires, Mercadona, Publix and Target.
Finally, Tier 6 represents groups with no evidence of farm animal welfare on their agenda. This tier includes E.Leclerc, Edeka, El Corte Inglés, Auchan, Mars, Müller, and Yonghui Superstores.
© 2018 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Sarah Harford. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.