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Foodservice posts “dramatic improvement” on animal welfare

Foodservice has closed the gap with retailers, manufacturers and producers in this year’s business benchmark on farm animal welfare. UK-based companies are also streets ahead of their US counterparts.

Restaurants and bars have traditionally lagged behind the other sub-sectors. However, in the latest report the average score has risen to 34% (from 27% in 2016), and is now more closely aligned to the scores achieved by food retailers (37%) and producers (38%).

Companies are measured for their approach to managing farm animal welfare in four areas: (1) management commitment and policy, (2) governance and policy implementation, (3) leadership and innovation, and (4) performance reporting and impact. They are then placed in one of six tiers.

In all 110 companies are featured – 40 retailers and wholesalers, 40 producers and 30 restaurant and bar chains.

BBFAW said pressure from customers and clients has resulted in many more companies taking animal welfare seriously. However, the overall average score (at 37%) remains fairly low, and 41 out of 110 companies still appear in tiers 5 and 6, indicating that they provide “little or no information on their approach to farm animal welfare”.

In foodservice, Subway and Wendy’s dropped down a rung to tier four. “Despite Subway making a public commitment to improve the welfare of broiler chickens, it’s not clear how they aim to implement the changes necessary to successfully deliver on their ambition,” BBFAW noted.

The good news is that 11 of the 26 companies that have risen by at least one tier this year are in the restaurants and bars sector. Domino’s Pizza Group and JD Wetherspoon were the biggest climbers – up three tiers from six to three. McDonald’s and Greggs stayed put in tier two.

BBFAW executive director Nicky Amos said the most significant change relative to the 2016 benchmark is the “dramatically improved performance” of foodservice companies.

Amos said: “Our discussions with companies in the sector suggest that this improvement is being driven by increased client and consumer interest in farm animal welfare, and by NGO, media and investor pressure on these companies to make public commitments on specific animal welfare issues – for example on cage-free eggs, on broiler chicken welfare and on reductions in the use of antibiotics.”

The report also showed clear water between UK and US foodservice companies in relation to animal welfare. Only Associated British Foods languished in the bottom two tiers from the UK, compared to several US-based foodservice firms, including Starbucks and Yum! Brands (which owns Pizza Hut and KFC).