Welfare app

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AWARD-WINNING mobile app measures EMOTIONAL WELLBEING of animals

At Waitrose, we put welfare first. But we always want to do better, which is why we’re trialling a pioneering app to measure how farm animals are feeling. 

The technology, which featured on the BBC's Countryfile, is designed to help us understand and recognise how animal behaviour is connected to emotional wellbeing. 

Ultimately, the data will improve their quality of life, and raise welfare standards across the UK.

“Good physical health is vital for good welfare but there is clear consensus among the scientific animal welfare community that factors such as enjoyment, contentment and positive excitement play an equally vital role in ensuring that an animal has a good life,” says Francoise Wemelsfelder, lead scientist and researcher at Scotland’s Rural College, which developed the app.

‘It’s critical that we recognise farm animals as sentient creatures capable of experiencing a range of emotions and positive experiences’

Trained welfare assessors visiting 1,800 Waitrose farms use the app – the first of its kind – to record how animals express their emotions through behaviours such as being relaxed, tense, playful or anxious. 

“This is a huge development for the industry as it is the first time any retailer has explored welfare measures based on the concept of an animal’s freedom to express positive emotions,” says James Bailey, executive director at Waitrose.

“In some countries, farm animals continue to be looked upon as food production systems that need to be managed. This is wrong and for the UK to continue its position as a leader in farming standards, it’s critical that we recognise farm animals as sentient creatures capable of experiencing a range of emotions and positive experiences.” 

The app, launched in February 2021, was recognised at the 2021 BBC Food & Farming Awards as the winner of the Farming for the Future category. It is licensed for exclusive trial and development for two years.

Waitrose is the holder of Compassion in World Farming’s ‘best retailer’ in Europe award, winning it three times in a row.

Award-winning supermarket for animal welfare
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How the app WORKS

  • There are currently six versions for different species: dairy cows, veal calves, pigs, laying hens, chickens and ducks. Others will follow.

  • Farmers and producers from each of these unique supply chains have been working together to come up with common terms for describing emotions of individual species.

  • Animals are observed and given a score on the individual terms that have been created for that specific species.
  • Each term has a negative to positive sliding scale that allows assessors to capture the state of the animal they are observing.

  • When they have finished scoring, assessors submit the data, which is integrated into data from other farms. It is that larger pattern that is used to assess quality of life.
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