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NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 10

Ten talking points on Tim Hortons

Posted: May 8, 2013

The iconic company has been arguably the most aggressive among the major retail players in Canada in moving on sow stalls and hen housing

Tim Hortons has moved strongly over the past year to roll up the rim on new commitments and requirements for farm animal welfare. Livestock producers and their industries are following the developments closely to see what this means for their operations and management decisions.

To help fuel the coffee talk, here's a rundown of ten of the key elements shaping the Timmy's approach.

1. Make it a 'double double.' Two of the greatest lightning rods in the farm animal welfare debate have been the issues of gestation stalls for sows and space allowance in housing systems for hens. Tim Hortons has tackled both at once.

2. Getting out in front. The company shifted boldly ahead one year ago with its May, 2012 announcement of "Major Initiatives to Improve Animal Welfare for Pigs and Chickens." It called upon the pork industry and its suppliers to by end of the year develop plans and timeframes to eliminate gestation stalls. It also set a goal of purchasing at least 10 per cent of eggs, representing significantly more than 10 million eggs, from enriched hen housing systems by the end of 2013.

3. Preferred sourcing. The company stated intentions to give preferred sourcing to pork suppliers who have clearly documented plans to phase-out the use of gestation stalls, and egg suppliers working to phase-in enriched hen housing systems.

4. Striking the right balance. Tim Hortons said it would share next steps in 2013 after reviewing industry plans and having further dialogue with the egg and pork industries and other animal welfare stakeholders. In a release, Tim Hortons president and CEO Paul House said the company recognized the challenges for suppliers and the importance of working together: "Striking a balanced, realistic solution for the farming community, which will need to make significant investments in new buildings, is also essential, and we fully recognize this will take time." said Paul House, president and CEO, and executive chairman, in a release.

5. Driving new science. The company also announced plans to commission "scientific, fact-based animal welfare research" with leading academic institutions on sustainable, humane animal housing systems.

6. Framing the issue around consumer expectations. "We hope and expect that our initiatives can help speed up the process by which farmers and producers will phase out gestation stalls for sows and move to alternative hen housing systems, so they can in turn meet industry and guest demand for such products," added House.

7. April 2013: Ramping-up the agenda. On April 3, 2013 Tim Hortons released its latest "Sustainability and Responsibility Report" which included a commitment to shift completely away from gestation stalls by 2022. "By 2022, we will source pork from suppliers who have made a transition to alternative open housing," the report said. The company also stated it is on track to sourcing 10 percent of its egg products from "more humane, alternative hen housing systems by the end of 2013."

8. Playing the 'values' card. Tim Horton's boilerplate language on the issue says it is "to achieve meaningful and sustainable progress in animal welfare in a way that reflects the Company's and our guests' values."

9. Putting more anchors down. The company has now also put major new anchors down in the areas of academia / research and industry engagement. It announced it has founded the Tim Hortons Sustainable Food Management Fund at the University of Guelph. Also, it is planning a North America-wide restaurant industry summit focusing on academic research about animal welfare issues and best practices for the fall of 2013.

10. What's next and what does this mean for producers? The genie is now clearly out of the bottle and is not going back. One gets the sense there will be a lot more to come from Tim Hortons on the animal welfare front in the months ahead. More information on how welfare fits in the broader sustainability agenda of the company is available in the Sustainability and Responsibility Report. The next edition of NewStream Farm Animal Care will feature a Q&A on the Tim Hortons approach with Tim Faveri, the company's Director of Sustainability & Responsibility.

Graphic showing Sustainability Report highlights. Courtesy: Tim Hortons

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