Retailers including Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Switzerland's Co-op Group and Migros, plus egg supplier Noble Foods, were the other businesses ranked top in The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW). The assessment recognises them as leaders in their field on the issue.
Matthew Brown, group technical supply chain controller at Cranswick Foods responded: "Cranswick plc recognise that animal welfare is an important and integral part of our business. We are committed to the health and well-being of the animals we rear and breed.
"The BBFAW is a well-respected independent assessment of our commitment to welfare standards, and it is for this reason that we are delighted that the progress we have made in 2016 has been recognised. We would like to thank the BBFAW team for the guidance and support they have given our business on this journey of continuous improvement and our long-term commitment to animal welfare standards."
International meat processors BRF and Cargill, together with retailers The Co-op (UK) and Tesco, food-to-go chains Greggs and McDonald's, and Unilever appeared in the report's second tier. That position was designated to firms that treated farm animal welfare as 'integral to business strategy'.
Globally, Vion Food Group and Danish Crown both moved up one tier since the report was issued last year to tier 3: farm animal welfare established, but work to be done.
Frozen meat firm Henan Zhongpin and Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand, a major poultry producer, were among the companies in the bottom (sixth) tier. That ranking signifies those companies for which there appears to be no evidence of farm animal welfare being on their agenda.Brazilian producer Marfrig fell two tiers to Tier 4.
The report, which is compiled in collaboration with leading animal welfare organisations Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection and investment firm, Coller Capital, reveals that companies are paying increased attention to farm animal welfare within their supply chains.
Animal welfare policies
Among its findings are that 73% of companies now have published farm animal welfare policies (compared to just 46% in 2012). In addition, 65% of companies have published targets on farm animal welfare (up from 26% in 2012).
A total of 36 producers and manufacturers were reviewed in the BBFAW report with 11 moving up at least one tier, six new entries, 18 non-movers.
Reflecting on the findings of the study, now in its fifth year, BBFAW executive director Nicky Amos said: "With 26 companies moving up at least one tier since 2015, there is a clear indication that the food industry is finally starting to treat farm animal welfare as an important business issue.
"Despite this progress, 42 of the 99 companies (including Restaurant Brands International, Domino's Pizza Group Plc and Starbucks Corporation) appear in Tiers 5 and 6, demonstrating there is still much work to be done to even get farm animal welfare on the business agenda of many large global food companies."
Compassion in World Farming's CEO, Philip Lymbery said: "We have witnessed some monumental market shifts for animal welfare since the last BBFAW report.
"Stakeholders and investors are pushing this progress forwards, reflecting the wishes of the vast majority of consumers today. It is increasingly clear that this is an issue which cannot be ignored by companies and we congratulate those that are moving up the ranking and driving progress in animal welfare across the food industry."