The global food giant said the agreement meant hundreds of thousands of farms that supply its dairy, meat, poultry and eggs would have to comply with tighter animal welfare standards.
In making the move, Nestlé also claims to be the first major food company to forge an international partnership with a non-governmental organisation focused on animal welfare issues.
Dr Marc Cooper from the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s (RSPCA’s) farm animal welfare department welcomed the decision. “There is a definite desire from the public for better animal welfare standards from big companies such as Nestlé,” he told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“We hope this move will encourage other large businesses to make similar commitments in this area and the RSPCA stands ready to provide help and support wherever possible to any company that wishes to improve their farm animal welfare standards.”
World Animal Protection, which has been working with governments, communities and international agencies to improve animal welfare for more than 50 years, welcomed the agreement.
“Our decision to work with Nestlé is based upon their clear commitment to improving animal welfare and the lasting change this can have on millions of farm animals around the world,” said Mike Baker, the organisation’s ceo.
Nestlé has 7,300 suppliers from which it buys animal-derived products directly, from milk for its range of yogurts and ice creams, to meat for its chilled foods.
These suppliers, in turn, buy from others, meaning that Nestlé’s Responsible Sourcing Guidelines apply to hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.
Benjamin Ware, the company’s manager of responsible sourcing, said: “We know that our consumers care about the welfare of farm animals and we, as a company, are committed to ensuring the highest possible levels of farm animal welfare across our global supply chain.”
World Animal Protection has been working with Nestlé on improving the Nestlé Responsible Sourcing Guideline, which its suppliers must adhere to as part of the Nestlé Supplier Code. Both of these build on the Nestlé Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare.
Guidelines now include spacing requirements for the rearing pens of animals such as pigs and cows, to ensure they are not cramped and can engage in normal animal behaviour.
The guidelines also seek to minimise pain for farm animals by using veterinary practices that reduce pain, or avoiding the practices altogether through different animal husbandry practices. For example, cow horns can be removed so that they do not injure other cows.
Nestlé has commissioned independent auditor SGS to ensure the new standards are met on its supplying farms. Hundreds of farm assessments had already been carried out this year, it said. Some of these checks were also attended, unannounced, by World Animal Protection representatives whose role was to verify the auditors, it stressed.
Nestlé would work with suppliers to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they met the required standards if its guidelines were violated, it said. And it would cut ties with companies unable or unwilling to show improvement, it added.