Farm animal welfare

Animal welfare is a concern increasingly appearing on the agendas of consumers and NGOs as well as in draft regulations.

Background

A number of our products include ingredients that come from farm animals, such as eggs in mayonnaise, dairy products in ice cream and meat in bouillons and soups. Farm animal welfare has been one of Unilever’s core sustainable agriculture indicators for many years and is part of our Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC) (PDF | 762KB) launched in 2010 and updated in 2015.

Based on the volumes we purchase, our major focus was initially on sourcing cage-free eggs and in our dairy supply chain, where we have made significant progress in partnership with our suppliers. In 2015, 45% of our global egg supply was cage-free and 59% of our dairy ingredients were from sustainable sources.

More recently, we have extended our focus to meat where we are working together with animal welfare organisations and our suppliers. In 2015, 38% of the pork meat used in Europe for our Unilever brands was sourced against higher animal welfare standards.

In our Sustainable Agriculture Code we have stated that antibiotics should only be used prudently with the aim of optimising therapeutic efficiency and minimising the development of antibiotic resistance. In 2015 our Breyers® brand in the US committed to only sourcing milk and cream from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.

Our ambition, as set out in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, is to purchase all our animal-derived ingredients from sustainable sources by 2020.

Unilever is not a leading buyer of animal-derived ingredients and our approach requires successful implementation by our supply chain partners. Our working method for monitoring and improving animal welfare is based on the so-called five 'freedoms':

  • freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition

  • freedom from discomfort

  • freedom from pain, injury and disease

  • freedom to express normal behaviour

  • freedom from fear and distress.

Unilever’s position

Farm animal welfare is part of our Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC). Detailed requirements are included in our implementation guides (see Downloads). We have set out clear standards of care that we expect our suppliers to achieve. We ensure our suppliers comply with legal requirements and help them to improve their performance in order to meet our SAC requirements. Unilever will be transparent on the specific welfare standards used for our animal-derived ingredients and will report on a regular basis about the progress made.

We believe good farm animal welfare schemes include issues such as housing and stocking density, hygiene, feeding and feed, water supply, health management and the responsible use of antibiotics, the avoidance of mutilations, transport, traceability and slaughtering methods.

Our ambition, as set out in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, is to purchase all our ingredients from sustainable sources by 2020. We will continue to work closely with our supply chain partners to ensure they support the high animal welfare standards we want to achieve for animal-derived ingredients.

Sourcing of cage-free eggs

Unilever was one of the first global companies to work with egg suppliers to start providing cage-free eggs for our brands. In Western Europe, our Hellmann’s, Amora and Calvé brands have used 100% cage-free eggs since 2009. In the US, we are making significant progress in our commitment to convert 100% of our egg supply to cage-free eggs.

We are aware of the concerns raised about global egg industry standards by which breeders of egg-laying hens eliminate male chicks, following methods that are included in EU Directives and American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines. While this is a standard practice in egg production, and although Unilever uses only a small percentage of eggs produced in the market, we take these concerns seriously.

We are engaging with the egg production industry, the animal welfare community and R&D companies to develop alternative options to current practice. We are committed to providing support to the market introduction of in-ovo gender identification (sexing) of eggs, a new technology that has the potential to eliminate the hatching and culling of male chicks in the poultry-breeding industry. We welcome the June 2015 announcement from the United Egg Producers in the US that they aim to eliminate the culling of male chicks by 2020, through the introduction of in-ovo sexing of eggs.

External recognition

Unilever has achieved Tier 2 (Integral to Business Strategy) in the fourth ‘Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare 2015 Report’ of farm animal welfare. This report, published in February 2016 and supported by Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection (formerly known as the World Society for the Protection of Animals), provides an objective account of the state of farm animal welfare as a business issue. Unilever’s position reflects the fact that farm animal welfare is integral to our business strategy through commitments made in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, implemented via the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC).

Our efforts in relation to animal welfare have also been recognised with a number of successes at the European Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards, organised by Compassion in World Farming.

In the period 2008-2013, Unilever won 14 awards: 4 Good Egg Awards for Hellman’s in Europe and the US; 2 Good Egg Awards for Ben & Jerry's in Europe and the US; 2 Good Egg Awards for Unilever Spreads and Dressings; 1 Good Egg Award for Amora; 1 Good Egg Award for Calve; 1 Good Dairy Award for Ben and Jerry’s; 1 Good Chicken Award and 1 Good Calf Commendation for UNOX (Netherlands); and the European Leader Award for Unilever.

Knorr wins Compassion in World Farming award

In 2015, the Knorr brand was recognised for its commitment to animal welfare and presented with Compassion in World Farming’s first Special Recognition Award. This recognises the brand’s ambition to advance animal welfare practices in its own global supply chain and how it is contributing to raising standards across the industry.

Knorr has been working with Compassion in World Farming to develop global criteria for good animal welfare and a framework to start transforming its supply chain.

The comprehensive set of criteria behind Knorr’s plan caters to the specific welfare needs of chickens, cows and pigs. Knorr has worked with independent external experts to assess current practices and is engaging supplier partners on improvements needed to bring consistent and positive change across its supply chain. Building capacity by our suppliers and providing meaningful information to consumers are key elements of Knorr’s commitment to animal welfare.

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