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Hospitality must aim higher on animal welfare

Restaurants and bars have closed the gap on their retail counterparts in this year’s Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare. But despite consistent improvement, there were no foodservice or hospitality brands in the top tier (1) of the latest rankings.

Indeed, performance in the sector was mixed: Whitbread and Yum! Brands were praised for their new approaches to improve animal welfare in their supply chains, whilst McDonald’s and Subway fell down the rankings. The major catering firms meanwhile stayed put in tier 3.

BBFAW’s seventh report, published this week, assessed the performance of 35 bar and restaurant chains, including the top 30 chains globally. The average score was 32%, equal to that of retailers and wholesalers and just ahead of producers and manufacturers (31%).

In all, 150 food companies were assessed, but only five made tier 1, reserved for those that have taken a leadership position on the issue. These were: Coop Group, Cranswick, Marks and Spencer, Noble Foods and Waitrose.

The two highest-performing companies in foodservice and hospitality were Greggs and Whitbread, both in tier 2.

Whitbread actually moved up a tier this year, having successfully started using welfare outcomes derived from animal-based indicators to assess welfare on farm and at slaughter for some of the stock in its supply chain. This also provides the company with an overview of emerging health and welfare trends.

Another company singled out for praise was Yum! Brands – which jumped two rungs to tier 3 thanks to publication of its sustainable animal protein principles and good antimicrobial stewardship policy. Reporting was also improved in relation to its animal welfare governance and policy implementation.

The majority of the food chains assessed this year stayed in the same tier (22 out of 35), suggesting there was plenty more work to do. Aramark, Compass, Elior and Sodexo all stayed in tier 3, as did Domino’s, JD Wetherspoon and Mitchells and Butlers.

 Two of the big names in the sector tumbled down the table – McDonald’s and Subway fell to tiers 3 and 5 respectively.

Subway’s fall was largely a consequence of what appears to be an overhaul of the company’s webpages and its sustainability reporting on its US webpage, noted BBFAW in its report.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, reduced reporting on company-wide policies relating to key welfare issues (for example, the avoidance of growth promoting substances and the avoidance of routine mutilations). The fast food chain also struggled due to the shift in this year’s scoring system, which was more heavily weighted towards “performance and impact”.

Indeed, commenting on the overall results, encompassing producers, processors, retailers and foodservice companies from across the globe, BBFAW executive director Nicky Amos, said the encouraging scores for management processes (board engagement, for example, and publicly available improvement objectives) are not being matched by performance.

“While just over half of companies report on the proportion of animals that are free from close confinement, only one in four companies covered by the benchmark provide any information on the proportion of animals that are stunned prior to slaughter and only one in five companies reports on live animal transport times,” she said.

Together, UK food companies achieved a significantly higher overall average score (61%), compared to those in North America (28%) and Europe (34%).

Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, said Brexit could be an opportunity for the UK “to get even further ahead if the government were to make its own animal welfare legislation, for example, by introducing a ban on caged egg production (as is the case in Germany) and banning live exports for fattening and slaughter”.

The full benchmark results are available here.