By Stef Bottinelli
After analysing 150 food companies, The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) annual report has found a marginal improvement in the commitment food companies have made to farm animal welfare in 2020, compared to 2019.
Using tiers to rank food manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, bars and restaurants, the BBFAW has found that 23 companies have moved up at least one tier and the overall average score has increased by 1% – from 34% to 35% – compared to the previous year.
For the first time since the report was launched 9 years ago, food producers and manufacturers have outpaced retailers, wholesalers and the hospitality industry in managing their business commitment to the welfare of farm animals.
Producers and manufacturers improved their score by 3%, retailers and wholesalers went up by 1%, however the score of restaurants and bars went down 1% compared to 2019.
The UK and Europe have shown to be the regions most committed to improving farm animal welfare, ranking highest in the report. Companies such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are at the top, in Tier 1, whilst Barilla, Cargill, Danish Crown, Uniliver, J Sainsbury and the Co-op UK are in Tier 2.
The BBFAW’s geographical analysis of food companies has shown significant improvement in the overall average score for Latin American producers, rising from 29% in 2019 to 40% in 2020. Companies such as Agro Super, BRF, Marfrig Global Foods and Minerva Foods have improved their management and implementation of their animal welfare commitments and policies. The Asia Pacific region has also improved, going up from 21% to 27% in the Management Commitment section and from 14% to 18% in the Governance and Management section. However, this region has always scored poorly overall, so more commitment to improving farm animal welfare standards is needed.
Whilst the BBFAW report has shown improvement compared to 2019, with 134 (89%) of the 150 companies analysed acknowledging farm animal welfare as an important business issue, and 119 companies (79%) having formal policies on farm animal welfare, there are still 31 major food companies (21%) who haven’t published policies on the issue. The report has also found that many companies are still reticent in reporting certain farming practices, such as live transportation of farm animals and beak trimmings in chickens. The welfare of farmed fish was also under-reported.
‘Two-thirds of farm animal welfare policies lack universal coverage with their scope being either poorly defined or limited to specified geographies, species and/or products.’, the report states. ‘In practice, companies tend to prioritise those species and issues where they have the most significant impact, where they have the most influence and where there is the greatest level of public or consumer attention. Whilst 55% of policies apply to all species (54% in 2019), our view is that farmed fin fish continue to be frequently overlooked in companies’ farm animal welfare or associated policies’.
The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare is the leading global measure of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment, performance and disclosure in food companies. It was launched in 2012 and is supported by World Animal Protection and Compassion in World Farming.