Supermarket welfare survey extends to Europe

European retailers will be able to take part in Compassion in World Farming’s biennial Supermarket Survey for the first time this year.

The animal rights group has said the move will allow European retailers to "benchmark" their farm animal welfare performance against their industry peers in the UK.

Leading supermarkets in the UK have taken part in the survey, which rates the policies and performance, as well as overall approach to welfare, for several years.

The survey will review the welfare standards of laying hens, broilers, pigs, dairy cows and calves – there will also be the option to include beef and sheepmeat, turkey, duck and fish.

Each retailer will have its welfare performance analysed by the organisation and will receive a bespoke comprehensive and confidential feedback report to help it track its welfare performance against other European retailers.

Those companies taking part in the survey will be automatically considered for Compassion’s Retailer Awards, which form part of the annual Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards. Compassion said the awards this year are going to be bigger and better, with one awards ceremony for the entire EU market, including the UK.

Four new categories will also be introduced this year, which include:

• Best Retailer Award 2013 – based on the highest overall score of all five surveys (broilers, laying hens, pigs, dairy cows and calves and overall approach to welfare)

• Best Performing Retailer Award 2013 – based on scores awarded for performance in the following areas: housing systems, environmental enrichment, treatments and procedures, breed, slaughter and transport, welfare outcome measurement

• Best Retailer Innovation Award 2013 – the retailer that provides the best example(s) of work to improve farm animal welfare within their supply chain

• Best Retailer Marketing Award 2013 – the retailer that provides the best example(s) of work to communicate farm animal welfare to the consumer.

Director of food business at Compassion Dr Tracey Jones explained that since most food shopping took place in supermarkets, that made retailers the main link between the farm and the food consumers buy. "The influence retailers have over the farm animal welfare standards adopted by food producers is enormous, due to their buying power and ability to promote one product over another. Therefore, encouraging them to place greater focus on farm animal welfare standards is vital. By expanding the scope of the survey to incorporate European retailers, Compassion aims to drive farm animal welfare higher up the agenda across Europe," said Jones.

Food retailer Marks & Spencer has been taking part in the survey since it was created in 2000 and Mark Atherton-Ranson, the agriculture and animal welfare manager for the retailer said: "Compassion’s Supermarket Survey is an important tool that helps us drive our standards forward and achieve our welfare commitments. The tailored and comprehensive feedback we receive steers the development of our Health & Welfare improvement programme, and enables us to maintain our leading welfare standards by providing a benchmark to gauge against our competitors in the retail sector."