NEW YORK – The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) released its comprehensive annual report on corporate commitment to animal welfare at a stakeholder event hosted by Morgan Stanley Jan. 23. Now in its fifth year, the BBFAW provides an annual review of how the world’s leading food companies manage farm animal welfare.

“It is the first global measure of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment, performance and disclosure in food companies and is designed to enable investors, companies, NGOs and other stakeholders to understand the relative performance of food companies in this area,” according to the report.

The report is compiled in collaboration with Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection, as well as investment firm Coller Capital.

After examining each company’s programs, the Benchmark grades the companies and assigns them a tier (out of 6 levels).

In order to assign each company to a tier, the Benchmark examined each company’s approaches to farm animal welfare based on their published information in five core areas:

  • Management Commitment and Policy including overarching farm animal welfare policies as well as specific policies on issues such as close confinement and long-distance transport.
  • Governance and Management including management oversight, farm animal welfare-related objectives and targets, internal controls and supply chain management.
  • Leadership and Innovation including research and development and customer and client engagement.
  • Performance Reporting including progress reporting (against policies/objectives and targets); input-based measures (e.g. production systems, such as cage-free systems).
  • Performance Impact including outcome-based measures (e.g. species-specific indicators of well-being).

Tier 1 companies are in the “Leadership” category; Tier 2 represents “Integral to Business Strategy;” Tier 3 companies are “Established but Work to be Done;” Tier 4 companies are “Making Progress on Implementation;” Tier 5 means animal welfare is “On the Business Agenda but Limited Evidence of Implementation;” and Tier 6 companies show “No Evidence (of animal welfare policies) on the Business Agenda.”

Thirteen companies, of the 99 in the report, currently occupy leadership positions in the Benchmark’s top two tiers. These two tiers are for companies that demonstrate strong commitments to farm animal welfare and have established management systems and processes.

Wichita, Kansas-based Cargill joins McDonald’s in the Benchmark’s second tier. Wendy’s and Sysco have advanced one tier since 2016, joining Subway, Tyson, Wal-Mart, and Hormel in Tier 3. Newly-merged Kraft Heinz was evaluated for the first time and occupies the sixth, and lowest, tier.

“We congratulate companies in Tiers 1 and 2 for their exemplary approach to farm animal welfare management and disclosure,” said BBFAW Executive Director Nicky Amos. “Their leadership is encouraging more companies to formalize their commitments on animal welfare and improve their reporting practices.”

Amos added: “Despite this progress, 42 of the 99 companies — including Restaurant Brands International, Domino’s Pizza Group Plc, and Starbucks Corporation — appear in Tiers 5 and 6, which demonstrates that there is still much work to be done to get farm animal welfare on the business agenda of many large global food companies.”

This year’s report reveals that companies are devoting more attention and resources to farm animal welfare within their supply chains. Examples of this shift include:

  • 76 percent of US companies have now published farm animal welfare policies (compared to just 46 percent of all companies assessed in 2012);
  • 66 percent of US companies have published targets on farm animal welfare (up from 26 percent of all companies assessed in 2012); and
  • Compared to other markets, US companies have shown the greatest improvement in overall performance, rising from an average score of 29 percent in 2015 to 36 percent in 2016 — a significant increase compared to marginal increases in average scores for UK companies (48 percent to 51 percent) and European companies (27 percent to 29 percent) in the same period.
“We have seen a considerable increase in disclosure from US food companies on their animal welfare policies,” said Rachel Dreskin, US Head of Food Business for Compassion in World Farming. “In the coming years, we expect to see more focus on progress reporting and the impact that these policies are having on the animals.”