Animal welfare at Waitrose

Animal welfare at Waitrose


At Waitrose, we believe that animal welfare and good business go hand in hand; this is not just because our customers expect and rely on us to be doing the right thing. Rearing livestock well and ensuring that high welfare standards apply throughout the animal’s life is vital to ensuring the quality of the meat we sell. So, we work closely with our UK farmers to ensure that all the livestock that provide the meat, eggs, milk and other livestock products we use are reared to the very highest welfare standards. The five freedoms form the core of our animal welfare standards:

1) Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour

2) Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area

3) Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

4) Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind

5) Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering

Waitrose Farming Partnership
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All of our UK supply chains are independently audited to Red Tractor Standards as a minimum, but we add a series of bespoke additional welfare requirements that our farmers must adhere to. For example, this means that not only do we require all the animals in our supply chain to be pre-stunned before slaughter, but also their journey time to the abattoir will be much shorter than the legal maximum. You can see examples of our key animal welfare policies - general as well as by species - and measures below, along with a list of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and welfare monitoring undertaken by our farmers and processors.

All of this is particularly important to Waitrose, as we never buy meat on the open market. Instead we only work with farmers we know and trust and who share our values. Our Agriculture Manager in conjunction with the Waitrose Farming Partnership-Livestock Steering Group (WFP-LSG) is charged with the overall responsibility for animal welfare in the Waitrose Supply Chains. Members of the WFP- LSG are all livestock experts from Waitrose and its dedicated suppliers.

Waitrose and its suppliers have won the Compassion in World Farming Good Chicken Award, Good Pig Award, Good Dairy Award and have twice been named CiWF Compassionate Supermarket of the Year.

General policies
 

Antibiotics

Under Waitrose protocols, antibiotics must not be used routinely or as a prophylactic on animals that provide meat, eggs, milk or farmed salmon into our supply chain. We work closely with farmers and vets to ensure they fully understand this policy and that any antibiotic use is restricted to therapeutic situations where animal welfare would be comprised if such treatment were not administered. All our farmers must have an animal health plan in place.

Beak trimming

The birds that provide our chicken are not beak trimmed and we are working with breeders of our laying hens to reduce the need for trimming in those flocks.

Cloning

Our policy states that meat, milk, poultry, fish or egg derived from a cloned animal including subsequent generations MUST NOT be used in Waitrose branded products.

Close confinement and animal welfare

Waitrose was a pioneer in the removal of close confinement systems from farm production. Today we pride ourselves on only selling free-range eggs and by having lower stocking densities than average throughout our supply chains. Furthermore, all our breeding sows are free range.

CCTV

All of our abattoirs are equipped with CCTV to ensure welfare standards are maintained. Footage is independently reviewed on a regular basis.

Continental meats

The use of authentic ingredients is very important to our customers and this is especially true with our authentic continental meats such as Spanish chorizo, German salami, Italian Parma ham and prosciutto and Belgian Pate.

These authentic products are sourced from known and approved supply chains subjected to independent inspection and verification protocols. They are produced to welfare standards that exceed European legislation.

We have developed our continental pig scheme over the past 10 years, being largely based on the Red Tractor Assurance baseline standard. We employ a rigorous and robust audit and approval programme so that only the best farms are able to supply us. 

Our scheme is based upon the five freedoms detailed above.

Growth promoters

The use of growth promoters is strictly prohibited in our livestock supply chains.

Pre-stunning

All of the livestock that provide meat for Waitrose are pre-stunned before slaughter to ensure they are insensitive to pain before being killed.

• Cattle and farmed deer are stunned using captive bolt.

• Lambs are electrically stunned.

• Pigs are CO2

• Poultry are CO2
 

Research and development

At Waitrose we understand that animal welfare never stands still and we have a number of research and development projects underway with commercial partners to improve the wellbeing of animals in our supply chains. These include (but are not restricted to) research to improve:

• Salmon health in our aquaculture systems

• Harvesting of farmed salmon

• Non-lethal predator deterrents on fish farms

• Dairy cow lameness

• Dairy herd health and welfare production benchmarking

• Proactive dairy herd health management – e.g. Bovine Viral Diarrohea eradication plans and  Johne’s disease eradication

• Tail biting in pigs

• Kyphosis (humpback) reduction in piglets

• Slaughter welfare of pigs

• Stocking rates for pigs

• Relationships between farmers and vets

• Stress levels in cattle – including when in the lairage

• Pelvic floor measurement in heifers

• Disbudding of cattle

• Liver fluke monitoring in cattle

• Air quality for young ducklings

• Natural daylight in duck houses

• Pododermatitis in turkeys

• Enhanced farm bio security in turkeys

• Water hygiene in turkeys

• Electrical stunning in poultry

• Range enrichment in poultry

• Feather pecking in poultry

• The implementation of farm welfare outcomes

Beef cattle

Our farmers work to strict animal welfare protocols ensuring the highest standards of husbandry and welfare to ensure stress free, naturally produced, healthy cattle. During spring and summer, cattle are reared on open pasture and during winter protective shelter is made available in bedded barns.
Cattle are finished on a natural diet consisting of at least 75% forage. If grass is in short supply, cattle are fed other natural options such as silage. Stocking densities are carefully controlled and lower than average.

Transport and slaughter of beef cattle

Welfare of cattle going to slaughter and when at the abattoir is of the utmost importance to us. All cattle are transported directly to the abattoir by Red Tractor approved hauliers.

Beef cattle

This ensures all vehicles and drivers meet required standards to ensure our welfare standards are met. All our farmers must be located within a six-hour drive of the abattoir; most are within a four-hour drive. The legal time limit for a cattle journey in the UK is eight hours.

Our abattoir is approved by Red Tractor, RSPCA Freedom Foods and the Soil Association and is regularly inspected. Our slaughter facilities were designed by animal behaviour experts and purpose built to ensure a quiet and stress free environment for the cattle. All staff members involved in the handling of cattle at the abattoir must be trained in welfare friendly animal handling methods and demonstrate a sufficient level of competence before being allowed to handle any livestock. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the animals on arrival at the processing plant.

Chicken

Chicken


Our essential Waitrose chicken is grown on family farms in Northern Ireland. What makes our ‘entry level’ chicken different to that available elsewhere is that the birds are raised in houses that provide lots of natural daylight and space when compared with a conventional poultry unit.

The birds that provide the meat for essential Waitrose chicken have around 25% more space than other birds and we also ensure they have environmental enrichment to help them display their natural behaviour to scratch, perch and play. Straw bales and perches are two of the tools we use to do this.

Bedding is refreshed regularly and fresh food and water are available at all times. Beak trimming is not carried out in any flocks that supply Waitrose chicken.

Like all our chicken, essential Waitrose chicken is raised on farms close to the processing plant - within 45 miles in fact.

Our Free Range Chicken is truly free range and given plenty of room to roam outside, while being housed in airy, well-lit sheds. They are raised at lower stocking densities than our essential Waitrose birds – around 10% less stock per house. They have around one square metre per bird of outdoor space and are a slower growing bird than our conventional chickens. Bedding is refreshed regularly and fresh food and water are available at all times. Outdoor range enrichment is provided through hedgerows and trees to further encourage natural behaviours.

Waitrose organic chickens are raised with the lowest stocking density of all and have around four square metres per bird of outdoor space – under our standards they have to spend half of their life outdoors. Organic finishing sheds have pop holes down the length of the sidewalls, which allow the birds free entry and exit. A concrete apron outside the shed allows dropping to be cleaned up regularly, maintaining litter quality inside the shed. The inside of the shed is bedded with clean chopped straw or wood shavings which is refreshed regularly and, of course, fresh water and feed is available at all times. Outdoor range enrichment is provided through hedgerows and trees to further encourage natural behaviours.

Transport and slaughter of chickens

All our chickens are transported to slaughter by Red Tractor Approved hauliers and are processed in one of the most modern poultry processing plants in the country. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the birds on arrival at the processing plant. The plant is regularly audited to ensure it meets Waitrose standards; it is also Red Tractor assured.

Deer for venison

All deer are sourced from specially selected farms in the UK and New Zealand and are reared outdoors through the year. In New Zealand, this is year round, while in the UK some deer maybe housed in straw bedded barns during especially bad weather in Winter. Our deer are fed a natural forage based diet, the bulk of which comprises grazed grass or clover enriched swards.

Chicken

Transport and slaughter of deer

All deer are transported directly to the abattoir using Red Tractor.

This ensures all vehicles and drivers meet required standards to ensure our welfare standards are met. All staff members involved in the handling of deer at the abattoir are trained in welfare friendly animal handling methods and must demonstrate a sufficient level of competence before being allowed to handle any livestock. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the animals on arrival at the processing plant. Our deer are slaughtered at a purpose built bespoke facility that allows the deer to express natural behaviour in a stress free environment.

Ducks

Duck


A brood and move system is the basis for our farming system. Birds arrive on the farm as day old poults direct from the hatchery. After an initial and carefully controlled brooding stage of about three weeks, the birds are moved to housing with lots of space and natural light.

Stocking densities are lower than average ensuring that birds have plenty of space to express natural behaviour. They also enjoy enrichment such as straw bales. Air quality and temperature are monitored at all times to ensure that the birds are kept comfortable at all times.

Every farm has a veterinary health plan and prescription only medicines are only given for specific reasons, they are never prescribed as a matter of routine.

 

Our high welfare and husbandry standards cover the entire supply chain, from parent stock and hatchery all the way to reception and handling at the processing plant.

Transport and slaughter of ducks
Journey times to plant are short - less than three hours - and are undertaken in a purpose built lorry. Everyone handling the ducks is appropriately trained in bird welfare.

Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the birds on arrival at the processing plant. The inspection includes farm health records and an inspection of the flock. The birds are kept in small groups in a covered lairage before being processed. Waiting times are kept to a minimum to avoid stress.

Eggs

All Waitrose eggs are laid by free-range hens; none of our eggs are supplied through caged or barn systems. Our essential Waitrose eggs and British Blacktail eggs are laid by hens that live in true free-range systems with plenty of space to exhibit natural behaviours and lots of range enrichment to ensure their wellbeing. Our Duchy Original Organic Eggs are laid by organic free range British Blacktail hens raised in organic systems. What makes our organic hens different is that they enjoy organic food from birth and they are allowed outside from eight weeks of age. Waitrose only uses free-range egg as an ingredient in its products.

 

Eggs

Geese
Our entire supply chain for geese is free range and a brood and move system is the basis for our farming system. Birds arrive on the farm as day old poults direct from the hatchery. After an initial and carefully controlled brooding stage of about three weeks, the birds are moved to a paddock where they are free to roam and enjoy the fresh air. Stocking densities are managed to free range levels, ensuring that birds have plenty of space to express natural behaviour. They also enjoy range enrichment such as grassy range and straw bales.

Every farm has a veterinary health plan and prescription only medicines are only given for specific reasons, they are never prescribed as a matter of routine.
Our high welfare and husbandry standards cover the entire supply chain, from parent stock and hatchery all the way to reception and handling at the processing plant.

Transport and slaughter of geese
Journey times to plant are short – less than three hours – and are undertaken in a purpose built lorry. Everyone handling the geese is appropriately trained in bird welfare.

Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the birds on arrival at the processing plant. The inspection includes farm health records and an inspection of the flock. The birds are kept in small groups in a covered lairage before being processed. Waiting times are kept to a minimum to avoid stress.

English and Welsh Lamb

It is a Waitrose requirement that our lambs are reared as naturally as possible. Lambs stay with their mothers from birth until weaning; during this time they suckle naturally and live in family groups. After weaning, lambs stay together as a group but their diet is based entirely on grass and forage. If grass is in short supply because of bad weather, the lambs are fed other natural options such as root crops.

Transport and slaughter of English and Welsh lamb

All transportation used to carry animals must comply with all regulations in accordance with legislation, assurance schemes and our other animal welfare protocols.  Lambs are yarded for two to three hours prior to loading for transport to ensure they are comfortable and relaxed in transit. 

Lambs

No Waitrose lamb – including Welsh – will have to travel more than 100 miles from farm to slaughter.
Many will have only travelled around 30 miles, hauled by the farmers who reared them. Lambs transported from further away will, as with other livestock supply chains, been carried by Red Tractor approved hauliers.

All abattoirs used for our lamb are regularly independently audited to Red Tractor abattoir standard to ensure the high welfare standards at all times. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the animals on arrival at the processing plant.

New Zealand lamb

Outside of the British season, we source lamb from selected farmers in New Zealand who also base their farm standards on the Five Freedoms. Lambs have access to water, shade and shelter from harsh weather and each farm is managed by a trained stockperson. All animals are reared outside and receive most of their nutrition from pasture.

Transport and slaughter of New Zealand lamb

When being transported for slaughter, all animal movement must comply with the Code of Recommendations and Minimum Standards for the Welfare of Animal Transport in New Zealand.

This process also includes a driver awareness and training accreditation. This regulates the stocking density, journey time and sets requirements for the availability of food and water. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the animals on arrival at the processing plant. All the lambs are electronically stunned before slaughter.

New Zealand lamb

Conventional milk

Our Waitrose Conventional Milk Scheme incorporates exacting standards to ensure that the dairy cows, at whatever stage of their lives, are treated humanely and with high levels of care and expertise in stock handling.

The dairy cattle are required to have access to pasture during summer. In winter they are sheltered in clean, dry and airy barns with readily available food and water. We are continually reviewing our standards to improve animal welfare wherever we can. We have a bespoke herd health plan for use on farm, developed in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh. The detailed plan covers areas such as bedding, foot care, medicine use and a bespoke nutrition plan.

 

Organic milk

Duchy from Waitrose Organic milk


Our Duchy from Waitrose Organic Milk comes from cows raised in organic systems. They graze outdoors when field conditions allow while in the winter they are sheltered in bright, airy barns. All our organic farms are asked to demonstrate measureable levels of improving health and welfare managed through natural diets and low stocking rates. Like all our milk herds, the animals are fed natural diets that according to their physiological needs and their state of lactation.

Farmers focus on breed specific husbandry techniques to ensure stress free cows. Our farms’ accreditation to organic and Red Tractor standards with the addition of our bespoke standards gives independent accreditation for animal welfare.

 

All surplus dairy bulls born into our dairy supply pool are integrated into our high welfare beef supply chain ensuring they remain in the UK.

Goats milk

Like all Waitrose farmers, great animal welfare is a key priority for our goat farmers. They operate beyond the requirement of the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme and their goats are housed in large airy barns and bedded on fresh straw every day. They are housed in social groups according to their stage of production ensuring a known, secure hierarchy allowing plenty of social interaction. Young kids are raised in specialist nursery units with group housing to ensure social enrichment. 

Pigs

All of the fresh British pork we sell - along with Waitrose sausages, bacon, British ham and gammon – comes from pigs that are either outdoor bred or outdoor reared. Pigs that supply our essential Waitrose pork are born outdoors – we never use farrowing crates or close confinement stalls. Weaned pigs – approximately four weeks old – are finished indoors in straw bedded, light and airy buildings. No farms use slatted floors and all growing accommodation is straw based. All our supplying farms have a lower stocking density than the pig industry standard. All our sows spend their entire lives outdoors.

All the pig farms we use must have an emergency plan to deal with any water supply issues and care of animals during extreme weather.

 

Piglets

We are working on research to reduce further the need for tail docking. In our supply chain pigs’ tails are docked only when recommended by a specialist veterinary surgeon to prevent tail biting; around 20% of piglets will receive this treatment. Similarly, the clipping of teeth is only carried out under specialist veterinary advice by trained stockpersons to protect sows’ udders when necessary. Castration is not permitted and farrowing crates are also prohibited.

Pigs

Free range pigs

As with our essential Waitrose pork, all the sows are kept outdoors their entire lives and live in straw filled arcs and tents on free draining sandy soils. At farrowing, the sows are given their own specific hut for raising the litter until weaning at four weeks old. Having been born outdoors, the growing pigs are raised outdoors in paddocks with access to freely range. Within each paddock there is a straw bedded arc for shelter. All farms have a lower stocking density in line with our higher welfare requirements. Stocking density must not exceed 25 - 30 adult animals per hectare. Tail docking is not allowed under the free-range system.

Duchy from Waitrose and Waitrose Organic pigs

Same high welfare standards as free range pigs above, but are raised to Soil Association organic standards.

Transport and slaughter of pigs

All our pigs are transported directly to the abattoir by hauliers approved by Red Tractor. All drivers must undergo specialist welfare training to ensure the highest standards are met. No journey lasts longer than five hours with the average journey time being three hours. No electric goads are used in the moving and loading of pigs. All lorries have lift up decks and straw bedding is used. In summer extra water is provided and where possible, pigs are moved in social groups.

Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the animals on arrival at the processing plant. All slaughter is undertaken fully certified and maintained to the standards laid down by British Quality Assured Pork. Dalehead Foods, our processor, recognises and operated within the guidance set out by the Humane Slaughter Association and Freedom Food for animals at the point of slaughter.

Farmed salmon

Our essential Waitrose farmed salmon supply partnerships are small to medium sized farming sites, each with an experienced team of husbandry experts. Each individual farm, as well as meeting Waitrose criteria has been assessed to meet the industry Code of Good Practice and the standards of a number of government and non government bodies such as Fisheries Research Services, Crown Estate, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Each farm will sit within an Industry Area Management Agreement.

Our farmers use the highest standards of animal husbandry and welfare to ensure stress free, healthy fish. The five freedoms form the core of our standards with fish too and the health status of the fish is monitored daily.

 

salmon_318x200

The Waitrose Code of Practice provides details of both water quality and transportation for each stage in the life of the fish. Under EU regulation, all the salmon farmers must ensure that their fish are fit to travel and they must have a veterinary health certificate. A risk assessment of all live fish journeys must be planned with valid contingency in place. All those engaged in live transport must be trained and competent and hold all the necessary qualifications to ensure the safety of stock during transport. Live transport is integral to the lifecycle of our fish and we continue to research methods and the understanding of live fish transport.

All slaughter is conducted to the highest standard and the salmon are electrically stunned to kill.

Waitrose organic salmon

Our organic salmon is raised to the same high levels of care and welfare as our essential Waitrose salmon but within Soil Association Approved organic standards.

Trout

Our trout fisheries use the highest standards of animal husbandry and welfare to ensure stress free, healthy fish. Again, the five freedoms are key to our farmed fish welfare policy and the health status of the fish is monitored daily.

All farm staff are dedicated to ensuring that the welfare and growth of the fish are paramount. All feed and growth is monitored and reporting structures ensure adequate fish health surveillance, early warning of any potential health or welfare problems and rapid action and follow up.

Transport and slaughter of trout

Our high standards of animal welfare are maintained at all times to ensure minimal disturbance and stress to the fish during the harvesting process. All the trout are electronically stunned to kill.

Turkeys

Turkey

Essential Waitrose turkeys are indoor-reared in England and Ireland using a mixture of housing types that provide the optimum balance between flock health, space to exhibit normal behaviour and natural environmental conditions. All birds are accommodated in purpose-built houses or large barns with deep straw bedding to provide comfort and warmth. Food and clean, fresh water are available at all times and in sufficient quantities to ensure that birds do not have to compete for access. All flocks are inspected regularly by experienced stockmen.

Free range turkeys

Waitrose free-range turkeys are raised on selected small farms in the UK and Ireland. They are provided with both indoor shelter and outdoor range areas during their growing period.

 Access to grass paddock is unrestricted during daytime hours for at least half the birds’ life and housing is available for them to return to shelter. Range areas are predominantly grass and areas of interest such straw as bales, trees, scrub and mixed vegetation are provided for range enrichment.

Waitrose organic turkeys

Waitrose organic turkeys are raised in England and Ireland and are broadly similar to free range but with additional requirements to meet the Organic regulations and the Waitrose bespoke requirements. The English raised birds have access to woodland while those raised in Ireland have access to reeds and some woodland – something of a turkey paradise. Stocking densities are very low, like our free-range birds with plenty of available environmental enrichment.

Duchy from Waitrose Organic turkeys

Duchy from Waitrose organic turkeys are raised in England and have access to woodland. A slow growing bronze feathered breed, they are raised to the same high standards as our other organic turkeys.

Transport and slaughter of turkeys

All our turkeys are transported to slaughter under National Welfare of Animals (Transport) regulations, which cover welfare and safety standards. All drivers involved in moving turkeys have received formal independent training in bird welfare. Farms are located within four hours drive of the plant and transport vehicles are specifically designed for the movement of turkeys. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the birds on arrival at the processing plant.

High Welfare Veal

Waitrose pioneered the sale of UK-produced High Welfare Veal. We have one dedicated veal supplier that we have worked with for over 30 years. The veal calves are reared in groups in large, airy barns bedded with deep straw with lots of room to move around. They have access to ad-lib milk and are offered some homegrown cereals to supplement and enhance their diet. We have an integrated supply chain and our veal calves originate from the Waitrose dairy supply chain.

Transport and slaughter of veal calves

The veal calves are transported to the abattoir by one dedicated, Red Tractor approved haulier and all drivers are properly trained in animal welfare. The haulier ensures that welfare is maximised for the calves by ensuring lots of straw and sawdust are used in the vehicle to maximise their comfort.

 

Veal

The welfare of the veal calves at the abattoir is of the utmost importance to Waitrose. Our abattoir has been purpose built with the help of animal welfare experts and operates a detailed animal welfare policy. As with our other livestock supply chains, all staff must demonstrate high levels of competence before being allowed to handle cattle. Like the rest of our livestock supply chain, a vet inspects the animals on arrival at the processing plant.

Welfare outcomes and Key Performance Indicators  (KPI’s)

In conjunction with our suppliers we monitor a wide range of key welfare performance indicators to ensure continuous welfare improvement for the animals in our supply chains. The key measures are included below.

1. Average travel time for livestock sourced by Waitrose during 2013

Average journey times
Measured from start of loading until last animal has entered lairage.

Average travel time for livestock

2. Livestock transportation – accidents/deaths in transit during 2013

Livestock transportation

3. Livestock origin

Livestock origin


4. Percentage of livestock reared to Red Tractor Assurance Standards or equivalent                    
  

Percentage of livestock reared to Red Tractor Assurance standards

5. Percentage of livestock pre-stunned before slaughter

Percentage of livestock pre-stunned before slaughter

6. Percentage of livestock in higher welfare systems

Percentage of livestock in higher welfare systems