Farm animal health and welfare in the supply chain

As the world’s largest food company, we share public concerns about the health, care and welfare of animals raised for food. With the implementation of our Responsible Sourcing Guideline (RSG), we want to help bring about positive change at every level of our extended supply chain, from our direct suppliers of animal-derived ingredients to their suppliers and back to the farms.

In 2014, we continued to build on its public commitment to continuously improve the health, care and welfare of farm animals in our global supply chain and in July 2014, Nestlé published a commitment on animal welfare (pdf, 2Mb).

This commitment is built around the internationally recognized ‘five freedoms’ (freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behavior) and compliments a wider group of requirements on responsible sourcing. Our public commitment explicitly lists cage systems, particularly barren battery cages as a practice that we are committed to eliminate as it contravenes the five freedoms.

Over the last 18 months Nestlé has been mapping its supply chains and has carried out assessments of suppliers of meat, dairy, eggs and poultry. We will have the following progress on traceability and responsibly sourced volume at the end of 2015 against our Responsible Sourcing Guideline requirements.

Global 2015:

  • Meat: traceable 10%; responsibly sourced 5%
  • Poultry: traceable 10%; responsibly sourced 5%
  • Eggs: traceable 15%; responsibly sourced 10%

The assessments have allowed us to build up a picture of the various sustainability and animal welfare issues in our supply chains. To date the findings of assessments indicates that of 249 critical, major or minor findings, 125 were for animal welfare (social, environmental requirements make up the rest). All the critical findings were on animal welfare, which highlights the importance of animal welfare. The next phase of our work is to work with suppliers on remediation actions.

Across our responsible sourcing activities we have so far avoided setting future (especially long future) dates for when we will be compliant with our public commitments. There are two major reasons for this:

  • Firstly our ambition is to eliminate unacceptable practices as fast as possible – by setting a date far into the future we do not wish to send a message to suppliers and stakeholders that we are delaying action.
  • Secondly, we wish to build trust and credibility in our approach - in very many cases there is very poor existing data on both the scale of the challenge and also on the mechanisms and tools to eliminate the practice.

There is however now a case to be made for setting an ambition for when we will meet our commitment on the elimination of caged eggs. We can add Nestlé’s weight to other corporate commitments and efforts of legislators and help accelerate progress at the industry level. In doing so we recognize that merely converting to cage free systems does not automatically result in the desired animal welfare outcomes. Housing systems differ in the possibilities for hens to show specific behaviors and if hens cannot perform those behaviors, this may result in significant frustration or deprivation or injury which contravenes internationally recognized ‘five freedoms’ and is thus detrimental to animal welfare. Achieving a good standard of animal welfare in any husbandry system requires close attention both to design of facilities and to management throughout all life stages.

Different regions of the world present different challenges in eliminating the use of cage systems and so our ambition level will reflect these different realities. In the USA we are now committing to eliminate the use of cage systems in our supply chains for egg by 2020. The current traceability figure for our USA suppliers is 35%, though recent announcements by suppliers give us confidence that full traceability and compliance to our standard will be achievable by 2020. In Europe and the rest of the world we will develop pilot projects with our suppliers and the help of our partner World Animal Protection which can help guide the development of a roadmap to cage free systems and better animal welfare conditions in these regions. We anticipate being able to set a timeline for these regions during 2016.

In 2016, as we continue to analyse the results of our assessment work, we will work with stakeholders to set dates by which we aim to have eliminated other unacceptable animal welfare practices.

  • Our mandatory Nestlé Supplier Code requires all our suppliers of animal-derived ingredients to meet all applicable laws and regulations on animal welfare, and to communicate this to their suppliers and to the farmers themselves. However, we recognise that to further improve the health, care and welfare of the farm animals in our supply chain – and to meet the expectations of our consumers and stakeholders – we need to go beyond ensuring regulatory compliance.

    To help achieve this, in 2012, the company established the Nestlé Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare, which we updated and strengthened in July 2014. This Commitment is based on the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines. Among other enhancements, we have committed to gradually eliminate from our global supply chain specific practices that are not consistent with the ‘Five Freedoms’ as defined by the OIE:

    • Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
    • Freedom from fear and distress;
    • Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort;
    • Freedom from pain, injury and disease; and
    • Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

    As part of our commitment to continuous improvement with respect to farming practices in our supply chain, some of the specific practices we have committed to eliminating include:

    • For cattle: dehorning; tail docking, disbudding and castration without anaesthetic and analgesia; veal crates;
    • For pigs: gestation crates; tail docking; surgical castration;
    • For poultry and eggs: cage systems, particularly barren cages; rapid-growth practices with respect to the effects on animal health and welfare; and
    • For animal production systems in general: our first focus is the responsible use of antibiotics in line with the OIE’s guidance, and the phasing out of growth promoters.

    The Nestlé Commitment of Farm Animal Welfare serves as the basis of our Responsible Sourcing requirements on meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, which form part of our broader Responsible Sourcing Guideline.

    Prior to formally partnering with World Animal Protection, Nestlé collaborated with the global NGO in 2013 to develop a protocol for assessing farm animal welfare practices in our supply chain. We have since worked together, throughout 2014, to implement, refine and strengthen our Responsible Sourcing requirements on meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.

    All of our suppliers are required to demonstrate continuous improvement in meeting our Responsible Sourcing Guideline. As an early step towards ensuring good farm animal welfare and continuing to raise awareness of our updated commitment to farm animal welfare along our supply chain, Nestlé has been working with World Animal Protection and our suppliers to trace our animal-derived ingredients. This includes farm-level assessments conducted by an independent third-party audit firm, SGS, to make sure that our requirements on farm animal health, care and welfare are being met. Several hundred assessments were carried out in 2014 to ensure compliance with our RSG. World Animal Protection and/or its local representatives were present at a number of these visits.

    World Animal Protection supports Nestlé in training SGS auditors on animal health and welfare matters. Expert, hands-on coaching is also provided to our ingredient buyers, suppliers and farmers.

  • In March 2014, we formalised our relationship with World Animal Protection (formerly known as World Society for the Protection of Animals). In doing so, Nestlé became the first major food company to enter into a global partnership with an international animal protection NGO. Through this partnership, World Animal Protection shares its expertise on farm animal health, care and welfare. In turn, Nestlé, through its Responsible Sourcing activities, provides World Animal Protection with the opportunity to further engage with suppliers and to promote good farm animal welfare practices within the food industry.

    Since 2012, Nestlé has been actively involved in an international, multi-stakeholder working group to develop an ISO technical specification (TS) on farm animal welfare. The goal of the proposed TS is to improve the living conditions of animals bred and kept for food production, and to provide a management tool to facilitate the implementation of the animal welfare principles of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Nestlé representatives contribute to the ISO TS working group through the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV) and SSAFE, a public–private partnership dedicated to integrating food safety with animal and plant health. The working group, which is scheduled to meet in 2015, is expected to develop the draft TS with a view to a vote in early 2016.

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