Calves, deer & game birds
Herds reared with minimal interference
Our veal, venison, poultry and game is supplied by farmers who share our values on animal welfare. Whether it is calves, deer, quail, duck, pheasant, partridge, wood pigeon, goose or guinea fowl, all are farmed to the highest standards of animal welfare.
In fact, our standards are some of the best in the world. That's why we've won the Compassion in World Farming award for best retailer in Europe for farm animal welfare three times in a row.
Look out for our animal welfare marque on our own-label meat and fish.
How we keep our deer contented
- Red deer herds are reared on open pastures as naturally as possible, with minimal interference, on British and New Zealand farms.
- When they’re inside, bedding is provided, and they eat a natural grass-based diet.
- Antlers are removed only when it is a legal requirement for safe handling and transportation.
Meet the farmer
George Walker in West Sussex supplies Waitrose with venison
“We started producing venison by mistake. About 40 years ago, we were sheep farmers, but we began exporting deer to New Zealand and decided to keep a few because we really enjoyed farming them. We had maybe 30 or 40 then. When venison was in vogue in the 1980s, I probably managed 1,500. Now it’s around 250. The calves come to us at around 21 days old, and because the dairy farmers work with a feeding system that’s very similar to ours, they easily adapt to their new surroundings and settle in very quickly.
“The animals are mainly outdoors – the calves go into sheds over winter to protect them from inclement weather, but in spring when there’s grass, they’re straight back out. They like good-quality grass, so we do a lot of reseeding every year. Their diet is milk and a cereal-based feed that we make ourselves, and they can eat and drink whenever they like. We’ll check them at least twice a day – there’s at least one person for every 120 calves.
‘We’ve been experimenting with red clover, which they love. They naturally fertilise the fields too, in a much more sustainable way than using chemicals'
“I prefer farmed venison to wild; it’s a very dense meat with a lot of flavour but doesn’t have so much of that ‘gamey’ taste. If I’m trying to convert someone to venison, I just cook it for them! I probably first tried it in a casserole, but that was a long time ago. I love fillet wrapped in pastry – venison Wellington. When I’ve got friends round for dinner, that’s what they expect to be fed.”
Our geese are all free range, which means they have plenty of room to roam
We like to keep our geese, guinea fowl and quail happy
- All our geese are free range and reared using high standards of animal welfare on one farm in East Anglia.
- They spend their first three weeks in warm, comfortable houses, before moving outside to grassy paddocks where they are free to roam.
- Because they are free-range, the birds have plenty of space to express themselves.
- Our guinea fowl are entirely free range and raised on farms in France’s Loire Valley, following strict European Poultry Meat Free Range Standards.
- They are free to roam during the day. At night, they stay in barns with lots of space and areas for perching.
- We only sell branded quail eggs from Clarence Court. The quails are reared to higher welfare standards and are free from confinement, standards recognised in 2017 with the Compassion in World Farming’s inaugural Cage Free Award.
How we keep our calves contented
- We are the only supermarket to have worked with the same ethical British veal producer in East Anglia since the early 1990s.
- Cosy corners made with straw bales are created for small calves. There's lots of room to move around, access to outside yards and calf brushes for scratching. Milk is always available.
- Some male calves born into Waitrose dairy herds are reared for higher welfare veal.
- We've been measuring levels of contentedness in animals on the farms we work with as part of our Animal Welfare Development Group, formed in 2018.
Meet the farmer
Farmer James has been supplying Waitrose with veal since the 1990s
"Waitrose pioneered UK-reared high welfare veal, and we’ve been supplying them since the early 90s – we wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. Some of the calves we rear are the male dairy-bred calves from Waitrose’s own dairy farms, which means we know exactly where they’ve come from and how they’ve been cared for.
"The calves come to us at around 21 days old, and because the dairy farmers work with a feeding system that’s very similar to ours, they easily adapt to their new surroundings and settle in very quickly.
"People often say to me that this isn’t what they thought a veal farm would look like – it’s very different from the majority of continental systems they might have read about. All the calves live in large, airy barns with plenty of space, in groups of between 20 and 40 and with lots of straw laid on the floor as well as natural light and ventilation.
"Their diet is milk and a cereal-based feed that we make ourselves, and they can eat and drink whenever they like. We’ll check them at least twice a day – there’s at least one person for every 120 calves.
‘It’s funny how the calves get into routines. In the mornings they’ll all lie in the sun... then seven in the evening is happy hour, when they run around and play'
“The best part of my job is seeing good, healthy animals in the yard – when you have worked with cattle for a long time, you can tell they are happy and contented just by looking at them. And when they leave the farm, I know I’ve done my best for Waitrose and my best for them.”
We like to keep our game birds – ducks, pheasants, partridges and wood pigeons – happy
- All our duck is British and reared using high welfare standards. After a careful brooding period of three weeks, the birds move to housing with lots of space and light.
- There are straw bales to play with and lots of room so they can express their natural behaviour.
- We sell prepared pheasant, partridge and wood pigeon when they're in season, and all from one supplier who runs environmentally sensitive shoots.
More like this
Produce grown with care
All our UK fresh fruit and vegetables are grown to LEAF Marque standards.
Chickens with more room to roam
They are all reared by British farmers, who share our commitment to high standards of animal welfare.
How our pigs live
All our piglets are born outside and raised in the fresh air, and breeding sows live outdoors for their entire lives.