• Sarah Hyland

Best Practice Animal Welfare : What's Not To Love?

Updated: May 6, 2019

A short review of a webinar and a report with a long name : the 2018 Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare.

How good is this?!

Without telling you how to suck eggs : consumers are increasingly aware of and concerned about how animals raised for food are treated.

The disquiet on animal welfare is playing out in our Australian democracy .The

Animal Justice Party (AJP) has just won its third seat in Parliament and its second in the NSW Legislative Council.

Also taking these concerns seriously are the 150 companies who participate in the global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) Now in its 7th year, the 2018 report was launched at a webinar this week. BBFAW mastermind Dr. Rory Sullivan took us through some top line findings. As a key output, the report classes participant companies into Tiers 1 through 6 according to their practices and performance. It's the animal welfare Olympics! Thankfully, they also provide a clear framework for action.

Along with report highlights from BBFAW, local guys Woolworths and AMP Capital spoke on retailer and investor considerations regarding animal welfare and how they use the benchmark study.

Woolworths report that animal welfare is a solid #3 on their shoppers' wish list after Australian made and food waste reduction. Woolworths have been participating in BBFAW since 2015, and have a goal to move from current Tier 3 to Tier 1 status. They believe that good ingredients start with good welfare. And that good welfare is good business.

All eggs sold at Woolies will be cage free by 2025.

"Woolworths is #1 in animal welfare in Australian grocery.

Our plan is to achieve Tier 1 status"

-Anna Playfair-Hannay, Animal Welfare Manager at Woolworths Group

AMP Capital highlighted the importance of animal welfare in investor decision making as measure of company management . Companies with no or low level animal welfare standards represent a significant investment risk - damaged reputation, public health issues and plummeting share prices are all well known consequences of putting animal welfare into the ‘too hard’ basket. The BBFAW also indicates whether a company is likely to innovate to capture the higher welfare part of the market as a way to drive earnings growth.


"It is a measure of the company's capability to manage the drivers of sustainability. Do they treat animal welfare as a commercial headwind or a business opportunity?

-Dr Ian Woods , Head of ESG Research at AMP Capital.


The full report is ace and at 80 pages, it is a time commitment. No worries!

You can get up to speed quickly by reading the SHYLAND Fast Five.

1. Anticipate and Lead

Farm animal welfare is a leadership issue, with strong commercial drivers for action such as risk management and consumer demand.

Waitrose talk pork.


Farm animal welfare is getting greater traction as a significant strategic opportunity. Good practice offers potential for new product offerings and market access ; and a solid platform for brand differentiation and reputation enhancement. Natura-Beef from Coop Switzerland is a great example.

These cattle and calves grow up with their mothers as nature intended. In addition to mother's milk, the calves feed on grass, hay and silage. In the summer they are in the pasture, in winter in the Laufhof (running yard).

3. It's a Steeplechase

Cargill works with a variety of stakeholders, including farmers and ranchers, customers, NGOs, academics, scientists, veterinarians, including world renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin.

Companies are improving their management practices, processes and reporting on farm animal welfare with 82% of participating companies moving up at least one tier in the BBFAW ranking system since 2012.

Some of the fastest improvers are Cargill, Aldi and Greggs.

However, customer willingness to pay and absence of a compelling corporate business case are key barriers to progress. The BBFAW are on it. Over the next 2 years they will by pumping up the volume on the investor messaging to companies; and encouraging the food corporates to ramp up consumer education and reporting on farm animal welfare impacts.

4. Best In Class

UK outfits own Tier 1, with Swiss retail giant Coop representing continental Europe. In fact 3 of the Top 5 are retailers, which shows they know the potency of higher welfare products at shelf.

5. C'mon Aussie, C'mon!

Only 2 companies of the 150 in the study are listed on the ASX.

Wesfarmers has moved up a level since 2017 and is now ranked at Tier 4Making Progress on Implementation . Woolworths is at Tier 3 Established but Work to be Done.

Chinese companies typically don't have much time for ethics, do they?

Think again!

China is a competitor to watch and is on the animal welfare move. 11 Chinese companies participate in the benchmark, with 5 having joined the study in 2018.

Our clean, green food bowl is underrepresented here. Surely for many local outfits, getting on the BBFAW train is something of a lay down misère*? e.g. Kyvalley Dairy Group and Geraldton Fishermen's Co-operative.

The BBFAW is a fascinating framework and the leading global measure of company performance on farm animal welfare. It leaves us with no doubt that best practice animal welfare is moving from niche to mainstream to hygiene.

Want more ? You can happily search the benchmark summary rankings by country, company, sector and time frame here.

* Borrowed from the card game 500. Australian gambling slang for a predicted easy victory.

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