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Four things to know on the big Nestlé move

Food giant introduces new welfare standards for suppliers

Posted: September 4, 2014

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Nestlé also becomes the first major food company to form an international partnership with an animal welfare NGO.

It's the latest domino to fall and it's a big one. Nestlé, one of the globe's largest integrated food companies, recently announced new animal welfare standards that will affect 7,300 of its suppliers around the world, including Canada.

The move reaches further to "the suppliers of those suppliers" and includes broad implications for primary producers. Here's a snapshot of several key aspects:

1. Dairy the major focus. Globally, in terms of value of products sold, the Swiss multinational is the world's largest milk company. Nestlé typically sources over 13.5 million tonnes of fresh milk from more than 30 countries. Of this, it purchases over 16 million KG of Canadian dairy each year.

Meat, poultry and eggs are also a key target. While Nestlé sources milk for its range of yogurts, ice-creams and other products, it also sources meat and poultry for its chilled foods and eggs for its pastry and pasta.

2. Consumer perception a key driver. Dairy production has made great strides for transparency, accountability and continual improvement in animal welfare. Canada's work to introduce an updated Dairy Code of Practice and develop an assessment model is a leading example. But as industry has heard so often from the top analysts and speakers on the topic, there is rising pressure on the food companies themselves to have clear standards in place to provide assurance to customers.

"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," say Benjamin Ware, the company's Manager of Responsible Sourcing.

3. Third-party audits part of the program. Nestlé has commissioned an independent auditor, SGS, to carry out checks to ensure the new standards of animal welfare are met on its supplying farms. "In 2014, several hundred farm assessments have already been carried out worldwide," says the company in a release.

4. WSPA (now WAP) has a key role. Industry in Canada and beyond has watched the rising profile, in particular over the past year, of World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The organization recently rebranded as World Animal Protection (WAP) and is a major player in facilitating the Nestlé move. The food company's "farm animal welfare commitment" was announced following the signature of a partnership agreement with World Animal Protection. The NGO is even referenced as an overseer of the auditing process.

"When a violation is identified, Nestlé will work with the supplier to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they meet the required standards," says the Nestlé announcement. "If, despite engagement and guidance from Nestlé, the company is unable or unwilling to show improvement, it will no longer supply Nestlé."

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Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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