A new report points to animal welfare as a top priority for both consumers and food companies, not just an ethical debate amongst meat-eaters and vegetarians.
The report, the fifth annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW), looked at the performance of 99 global foods brands in four key animal welfare areas: management commitment and policy, governance and implementation, leadership and innovation, and performance reporting and impact.
According to the findings, 73 percent of brands reviewed have animal welfare policies in place, a number up from just 46 percent in 2012, reports Food Navigator. Sixty-five percent have specific animal welfare targets, such as deadlines for decreased use of antibiotics and moving to cage-free egg production--the latter of which an overwhelming number of fast food chains, supermarkets, and producers have committed to in recent years, making it a new industry norm in just a few years.
And while the report also notes that many companies, “have yet to establish robust systems and processes for managing, measuring and reporting on farm animal welfare,” there are signs we've passed the point of no return.
In a recent interview with the New Hope Network, Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society and author of the recent book, “The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals,” notes that a sea change among producers is imminent, “I think the convergence of so many social concerns is driving these changes in the food industry.”
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Pacelle explains that executives at these big brands “want to do the right thing,” and that decision is also being guided by growing consumer demands for transparency, as well as more ethical treatment of animals raised for food.
“When we make the scientifically sound case and say [animal cruelty] is awful, it softens [CEOs] up because they are people too,” he explains. “Plus, this is where the mass of customers are moving. It’s disqualifying for companies. When animals are mistreated, you often see other bad outcomes in society, too.”
In the BBFAW report, the authors point to companies such as Cargill and Mondelez International that are beginning to view animal welfare as business opportunities instead of challenges, a huge shift in consciousness from recent years. The research authors note it’s no longer the preserve niche of “‘healthy’ or ‘organic’ producers, nor is it limited to premium brands and food companies appealing to more affluent consumers.”
Pacelle agrees, “Moral intention combined with human ingenuity is going to give us a pathway to a more humane society,” he says.” We’ve already won the moral argument—there are very few people who say that animals don’t matter.”
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