Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare launches latest Annual Report

7 March 2018

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) has published its sixth annual report. The BBFAW provides an independent assessment of global food companies’ animal welfare practices, to act as a catalyst for improvements in management, reporting and performance. The Benchmark is targeted particularly towards investors, enabling them to consider farm animal welfare in their research and investment decision-making processes. The BBFAW also engages directly with companies to encourage improvements in performance.

The Benchmark ranks companies in six tiers, with Tier 1 reserved for the strongest performers, and Tier 6 for the weakest. Companies are assessed on their performance in four areas: management commitment to animal welfare; governance and management of welfare issues; leadership and innovation; and performance and reporting. Performance and reporting covers a range of key farm animal welfare issues: routine mutilations, close confinement, use of pre-slaughter stunning, use of antibiotics and growth-promoting substances, and average live-transport time. This year, the BBFAW increased the weighting of its performance and reporting category and expanded its coverage from 99 to 110 companies. These companies comprise food producers, wholesalers and retailers, as well as restaurants and bars.

The latest report highlights some promising findings:

  • The average company score for farm animal welfare has increased to 37%, from 34% in 2016;
  • 26 companies improved their rankings in 2017, while just eight moved down in the rankings;
  • There are now 17 companies ranked as either Tier 1 or Tier 2, up from just three companies in 2012.

The BBFAW views these findings as encouraging, considering the increased weighting given to performance in this year's Benchmark, as well as the addition of 11 companies.

Other positives to note include an increased focus on formal management systems, more published improvement objectives, and commitments to avoiding close confinement of livestock. Performance reporting is also becoming increasingly common, and the quality of data is improving. However, significant challenges remain. Several companies still provide little-to-no information on their approach to farm animal welfare and, while overall performance is improving, average scores in most areas remain low.

While the difference in average scores between sub-sectors is minimal, the report shows that geography and ownership structure have a significant impact on animal welfare performance. Presently, UK companies outperform the rest of the world in all four of the BBFAW's reporting areas, with an average score of 58%. Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific consistently performs lowest, with an average score of just 14%. Performance is also consistently higher for co-operative owned businesses, with private companies performing lowest in all four areas.

From engagement with companies, several barriers to improving animal welfare standards were identified, most notably:

  • a perceived lack of customer willingness to pay more;
  • costs required to deliver improvements; and
  • a lack of awareness of the business benefits, which include market opportunities, managing reputation and risk, and increasing security of supply.

Still, it is promising to note that while Tier 1 of the Benchmark is indeed dominated by more expensive brands, both Greggs and McDonalds are present on Tier 2, as are Tesco and Sainsbury. This proves that delivering high animal welfare standards alongside value for customers is not an impossible feat.

Going forward, the BBFAW aims to increase levels of investor engagement with animal welfare issues, encouraging them to sign the Global Investor Statement on Farm Animal Welfare and to support the Global Investor Collaboration on Farm Animal Welfare. They also plan to host roundtables, workshops and masterclasses on animal welfare issues, as well as to produce briefings and reports for investors. Given that 46% of companies covered by the Benchmark identified investor pressure as a key driver of change, these actions will be integral to improving animal welfare across the global food industry.

Sophie Hall, Researcher

March 2018

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