Compassion Recognises Latest Company Achievements in Animal Welfare and Sustainability

Compassion in World Farming hosted its virtual Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards on Thursday 24 June, celebrating a number of special entries.

The annual awards were streamlined this year to allow businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to progress towards the delivery of their existing animal welfare commitments. This meant that there were just 10 awards in the following categories: Marketing & Innovation Awards for the Food Service & Manufacturing sectors; Sustainable Food & Farming Awards; Planet Friendly Awards, in addition to three species-specific awards – all celebrating the work of market-leading food businesses for their inspiring and often innovative work in the field of farm animal welfare and sustainable food production.

This year’s Best Marketing Award was presented to French, higher welfare poultry producers, Les Fermiers de Loué, for their humorous and eye-catching street poster campaign that cleverly linked into the 2020 Municipal Elections that were happening in France at the time.  Entitled ‘Elections Municipoules 2020’ the campaign which took place in Paris and Le Mans mimicked the familiar posters of political candidates, by featuring a chicken as their candidate whose electoral promise was ‘Our only label: welfare’.

The campaign was widely publicised on TV, radio and social media and generated huge public interest as it ran during the last eight days of the election. It successfully raised awareness of Loué’s ‘A’ Rating for animal welfare (which includes using free range, slower growing chickens) and the Method of Production labelling it applies to its products and did a great job at successfully getting animal welfare onto the wider political agenda.

Yves de La Fouchardière, General Manager of the Coopérative des Fermiers de Loué said: “This award recognises our desire to ‘let people know’. For us, communication is above all a collective and personal commitment to promote a good cause: animal welfare.”

Of the entries for the Best Innovation Award not one, but two, applications stood out, both of which were awarded Special Recognition Awards. 

Hilton Seafood UK received its award for being the first to commercially trial and adopt an electric stunner for warm water whiteleg shrimp, or King Prawns, which delivers a more humane method of slaughter than the usual thermal stunning by immersion in ice slurry. In addition to the welfare benefits it provides, which includes less handling and crowding of the prawns, it provides a more effective and consistent stun, which reduces labour during harvest, while not being detrimental to product quality.  The system, which has been approved and rolled out across the Hilton/Tesco supply chain, will benefit more than 100 million animals in its first year. 

“Hilton Seafoods UK take fish and crustacean welfare extremely seriously and actively seek out improved welfare methods and the latest research on welfare and animal handling,” said William Davies, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Supply Chain Manager at Hilton Seafood UK. “Working with our supplier partners we are very happy with the performance of the shrimp stunner, enabling both improved welfare at harvest and a harvest efficiency benefit for the farmer. Awareness of crustacean sentience is growing, and the implementation of the farmed shrimp stunner adds to the existing electrical stunning we have in all the wild caught crab and lobster we purchase.”

Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion said: “The sentience of crustaceans is often overlooked and in the absence of any legislation or standards, this electric stunner for shrimp, pioneered by Hilton Seafood, has the potential to benefit billions of animals if adopted more widely across the industry.”

The other winner of a Special Recognition Award within the Innovation category was Danone for its global assessment tool for dairy cow welfare. This digital tool, which can be used on any tablet, helps farmers phase out inappropriate practices, such as tail docking and dehorning. It creates a SMART Action plan for improvement based on key inputs and welfare outcome measures, such as early colostrum feeding to calves, lameness, mastitis and body condition score – following a two-hour assessment conducted by the farmer.

Animal welfare is a key pillar of Danone’s Regenerative Agricultural Model and because the company deals with milk supply in 14 different countries, they wanted to develop a centralised tool that could be rolled out across their entire global supply chain, benchmarking all their farms against the same criteria.

By the end of 2020, over 400,000 dairy cows and 350,000 replacement young stock had been assessed using the tool, which allowed farmers to start implementing welfare improvements. Danone has also shared the tool with other companies and partners around the world, providing a global benchmark tool with a focus on animal welfare.

“Having a global tool that provides clear guidelines and benchmarks motivates both the Danone team as well as the farmers on the most important topic of animal welfare,” said Cees Jan Hollander, Global Farming Expertise Manager at Danone. “I hugely appreciate the team’s efforts in the different countries that are doing an amazing job by using this tool to significantly improve dairy cow welfare.”

Dr Tracey Jones commented: “Danone’s new digital tool provides direct on-farm action plans, tailored to each farm’s specific needs which are compared against a universal benchmark. It has the potential to help monitor and improve welfare on a global scale thanks to Danone’s willingness to share it with other companies. In fact, both our Special Recognition Award winners in the Innovation category should be congratulated for their capacity to scale up and provide a global baseline for best practice facilitating huge improvements in animal welfare.”

The Planet Friendly Award celebrates companies committing to meaningful meat (dairy, fish, or eggs) reduction targets in their supply. Some companies are already working in this space, coupling the advancement of animal welfare with a rebalancing of their protein offer to consumers.

This year, Italian manufacturer Barilla was singled out for a Special Recognition Award under the Planet Friendly Award banner. Since committing in 2012 to go cage free on all shell eggs and egg ingredients, Barilla has successfully implemented cage free eggs across its entire global business, which is no mean feat for a company that operates in over 100 countries. Their current cage-free policy means that over 2 million hens are benefitting each year.

Barilla has also reformulated part of its product range, which has led to a progressive decrease in the use of egg as an ingredient – with an 8% reduction from 2016-2020, resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and over 350,000 laying hens taken out of their global supply chain. Three new biscuit ranges across two brands have been launched containing either no eggs or a lower content of eggs (using a high percentage of legumes instead), while in the US a whole pasta range containing 100% plant-based protein has launched. In addition, Barilla’s commitment to reducing the company’s environmental impact has resulted in three of its brands offsetting their CO2 emissions completely.

Elena Franchi, Raw Materials Purchasing Manager at Barilla said: “We are proud to receive this award, the result of Barilla’s constant commitment to animal welfare issues. Thanks to the collaboration with CIWF, we achieved the important goal of globally removing cages from our eggs supply chain; in addition to this, in the last few years we have launched several products with high content of plant-based proteins, reducing the consumption of eggs. And the journey has not finished, we will continue our activities to further improve.”

Compassion’s Director of Food Business, Tracey Jones said: Whilst the transition to higher welfare production systems is imperative, growing scientific evidence calls for a significant reduction in the overall production and consumption of animal protein.  Barilla’s work to actively reduce egg consumption with the resulting fall in emissions is an excellent example of how this balance can be successfully achieved and deserves to be recognised.”

The Sustainable Food & Farming Award is awarded to businesses that are taking steps to produce higher welfare meat, dairy and eggs in ways that protect, improve and restore wildlife and the environment, and can demonstrate a positive impact on one or more of the following: wildlife, wildlife habitats, soil, conservation, forests, climate change, water quality, reducing use of chemicals and pesticides, reducing reliance on imported animal feeds.

There are two categories for this award – the small producer or farmer, and the corporate/large food business award.

The winner of the small Producer category was Lynbreck Croft, a multi-enterprise food producing business that is firmly rooted in farming with nature and high animal welfare principles.  Owners Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer now produce a diverse and delicious range of food from eggs to pork, beef to honey, as well as added value meats and charcuterie all of which are prepared and butchered on site. 

Recognising that land and animals are our most valuable and essential assets, Lynn and Sandra use regenerative grazing principles, prioritising soil health with a goal to increase biodiversity.  They have planted 30,000 native trees and choose animals that are suited to the UK climate and natural forage.  As well as selling directly to the community, Lynbreck also offers tours and courses to encourage and educate others in the benefits of small-scale farming producing high quality food to high animal welfare standards while respecting the natural capacity of the land.

Lynbreck Croft owners, Lynn and Sandra said: ” We have always been committed to producing the best food we can where high animal welfare and positive environmental impact sit at the core of what we do. We are so delighted to win this award.”

This year, Compassion also presented a Special Recognition Award in this category to Hollis Mead Organic Dairy – an organic farm specialising in high quality organic milk and food sold directly to the public ‘while enhancing the environment for wildlife’.

Based in Dorset, Hollis Mead’s organic herd of British Friesian crosses are grass fed on organic pastures and only milked once a day with their milk sold via 14 vending machines across Dorset, Devon and Somerset.  Having planted over 15 miles of hedges over the years, wildlife is flourishing, and soil health has also improved dramatically on the farm.  Hollis Mead encourages the public to visit the farm to help close the information gap between what we eat and where it comes from.

The Corporate category of the Sustainable Food & Farming Award celebrates companies that can make positive change on a large scale, both to the animals in their supply and to the wider environment.  This year McDonald’s UK & Ireland was the worthy winner of the corporate award for their Regenerative Beef Project, which aims to demonstrate the benefits (environmental, ethical and economic) of an Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing approach, with the ultimate goal of developing a roadmap towards a commercial regenerative beef farming system. 

Regenerative agriculture is an approach to growing food that aims to actively rebuild degraded soil, recharge watersheds, and dramatically increase biodiversity. The system works with nature, not against it, supporting a varied ecosystem which itself supports wildlife and species that have co-evolved with grazing animals for millennia. By using a well-managed, pasture-based system, soil function can be restored through carbon sequestration, making pastures more productive without the need for fertilisers. Soils with good structure and high organic matter support high water infiltration rates, which reduces run-off and mitigates against the increasing risks of erosion and flooding and ensures resilience against drought.

The AMP system uses robust, easy calving breeds that are fit for the environment and able to forage outdoors year-round. They are kept in large, stable groups which promotes good social networks, and benefit from regular contact with the stockmen, making them much happier, calmer and easier to handle. Through regular pasture rotation, the cows have an increased diversity of fresh, nutrient-rich plants available to them, allowing for self-selection and increased interest and exploration of their environment, resulting in better health and welfare, both of which are continually monitored throughout the project.

The benefits of farming in this way means that input costs can be reduced, health and welfare can be improved, as can the resilience and natural environment of the farm.  The Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing approach is an opportunity to futureproof the beef industry and drive more resilient production. With over 4 million customers every day to McDonald’s restaurants in the UK alone, changes in the right direction at this scale will make a massive impact, potentially game-changing for the industry, if rolled out across McDonald’s more widely.

Harriet Wilson, Agriculture and Sustainable Sourcing Manager, McDonald’s UK & Ireland said: “We are incredibly proud to be working on this ground-breaking project, alongside our brilliant partners FAI Farms, and the impact it could have on the UK beef industry. The project presents a real opportunity to explore the ways in which we can futureproof the industry and drive more resilient production, to ensure our future beef supply contributes to a sustainable food system where people, local communities, animals and the planet can thrive.”

Compassion’s CEO Philip Lymbery commented: “In this age of pandemic, climate and biodiversity emergency, there is an urgent need to move to regenerative, nature-friendly farming that not only builds back better soil health, pollinators and other biodiversity, but also provides for the very best animal health and welfare. Our Sustainable Food and Farming Award seeks to bring greater recognition for farmers and businesses pioneering nature-friendly farming and I’m delighted to congratulate and thank all this year’s winners and indeed everyone who applied for the award for all they are doing to preserve the natural world as our life support-system for the future.”

Despite the slimming down of this year’s Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards, there were three additional species awards presented.

Chinese producer Happy Eggs received the very first Good Egg Award in China for selling only cage-free eggs on the internet. They lease the higher welfare and environmentally friendly Dutch ‘Rondeel’ barn system – the only one in China – and have built an additional aviary barn system which is set to improve the lives of more than 240,000 hens each year. In addition, they are keen to educate the public about the benefits of higher welfare for animals and humans alike and are building a small museum and café linking welfare farming to the local tourist industry.

Leading Italian producer of healthy bakery treats, Galbusera, completed its transition to cage-free eggs across all its own brands in 2020. The company received a Good Egg Award this year for extending its cage-free commitment to exclude combination systems within the next five years.

Nature d’Eleveurs, owned by leading French manufacturer LDC group, received a Good Rabbit Commendation for its commitment to roll out higher welfare, cage-free production for fattening rabbits in all farms producing rabbit meat under this brand.

In November, Compassion will be celebrating more winners in China through its Good Egg Production and Good Chicken Production Awards which it has run in collaboration with the International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare (ICCAW) since 2014. These awards are based on a star system with five stars being the highest accolade recognising the higher welfare achievements of Chinese pig and poultry producers.

Philip Lymbery concluded: “One of my greatest pleasures each year is presenting the Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards. I’m humbled to share that, since our Food Business programme and awards began in 2007, the total number of animals benefitting (including awards, projects and pledges), is over 2.23 billion. This is a truly amazing impact, which fills me with great hope for the future, for animal welfare, humankind and our planet. I’d like to congratulate and thank all of this year’s winners for all they are doing to make life better for millions of farmed animals.”

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