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North American food retailers make progress for farmed animals

There has been significant progress for farm animal welfare recently in North America. Many commitments by food retailers to end severe confinement systems of breeding sows and egg-laying hens are the result of strong leadership from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Positive changes are happening in Canada, too.

Loblaw Co. Ltd.

Canada’s largest food retailer, Loblaw, is interested and active in farm animal welfare, with company personnel meeting with CCFA, animal welfare scientists and industry people. Last year Loblaw committed to ensuring all its President’s Choice eggs are cage-free. Although they are not there yet due to supply issues, the commitment still stands.

A CCFA representative discussed farm animal welfare at the Loblaw annual shareholders’ meeting in early May.

Loblaw often leads the way among Canadian food retailers, then other retailers follow. This year Metro included animal welfare in its corporate social responsibility report, but made no specific commitment to improvements for farm animals.

Safeway

Safeway – with stores in Western Canada and the U.S. – announced in May its plans to begin formulating a plan to have a gestation stall-free supply chain. Over the past several years, the company has substantially increased the quantity of pork it buys from producers that have made commitments to decrease use of gestation stalls in their breeding facilities.

Wal-Mart and Costco

Wal-Mart and Costco have transitioned their private-label eggs to 100 percent cage-free. Unilever, which uses 350 million eggs a year in its Hellmann's mayonnaise brand, is switching to 100 percent cage-free.

Tim Hortons

Thousands of Canadians signed a petition to Tim Hortons asking for improvements to farm animal welfare. HSUS introduced a resolution for the shareholders meeting in May, though the resolution was later dropped. Prior to the meeting, the company announced it would commit to 10% of the eggs it uses will come from hens in “enriched cages” (but not cage-free), with no time line for the change announced.

Tim Hortons, with 4000 outlets, asked its pork suppliers to present their plans by year’s end – to phase out gestation stalls.

This spring Tim Hortons released a Canadian YouTube video touting the company’s care of laying hens, yet footage showed hens in battery cages, implying it was humane housing. CCFA wrote the president of the company about the conflicting and inaccurate messaging in the video.

McDonald’s

In March the world’s largest quick food retailer announced it would require its pork suppliers to outline their plans for a (future) sow stall-free program by May of this year. supply information to the company by May of this year.

This policy currently only applies to U.S. outlets.

Burger King

Burger King announced all its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017. The decision by the world's second-biggest fast-food restaurant raises the bar for other companies seeking to appeal to the rising consumer demand for more humanely produced fare.

The decision by Burger King, which uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually, could represent a game-change in the egg and pork supply business as a huge new market has opened up for humanely raised food animals. Currently nine percent of the company's eggs and 20 percent of its pork are cage-free.

This policy currently only applies to U.S. outlets.

Wendy’s

In April, Wendy’s announced two major improvements to its animal welfare standards to significantly improve the humane treatment of hens and pigs. The company is working with its U.S. and Canadian pork suppliers to eliminate the use of sow gestation stalls over time.

Since 2007, Wendy’s has given preferential buying to suppliers who adopt an ongoing plan to phase out gestation stalls. As a result, a steadily increasing portion of the company’s pork supply has come from sows not kept in gestation stalls.


The company is now requiring all its U.S. and Canadian suppliers to provide plans to phase out gestation stalls in their operations.

Stephanie Brown
Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals