Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 2, Edition 14

Unilever ramps-up animal care standards

October 2, 2014

'Embedded sustainability' approach puts welfare-based sourcing at forefront

Another food giant has made a goliath-like move with implications for farm animal care.

Anglo-Dutch based Unilever – the multi-national behind numerous brands from Becel and Hellman's to Knorr and Lipton - has announced updated supply chain standards for animal welfare. They come with teeth, including moves to support addressing difficult issues such as the culling of day-old male chicks.

Unilever is also the world's third largest consumer goods company with brands from Dove to Vaseline in its wide stable. (On any given day, two billion people use Unilever products to "look good, feel good and get more out of life," says the company's website.) The welfare move is sure to send ripples throughout additional layers of the global food industry. For suppliers, it means another major piece to manage among the now swelling ranks of brand-driven animal care demands.

Ambitious action plan

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Kansas-led study tackles welfare knowledge gap

October 2, 2014

Dr. Glynn Tonsor

Fresh approach harvests views on cattle animal welfare

How do U.S. cow-calf producers view animal welfare in the beef sector? How does the public view it?

Examining both questions and the differences between the answers is the focus a new study led by Kansas State University researchers. Here's a rundown on the approach and preliminary results:

Taking the lead. Limited research exists comparing producer and consumer views of beef animal welfare, says Glynn Tonsor, livestock economist for Kansas State University, who took the lead in the study along with Melissa McKendree, a doctoral agricultural economics student and a team of veterinarians and animal scientists. The study used national surveys to fill this knowledge gap.

Mounting pressure. All livestock industries, beef included, face rising pressure to adjust animal welfare practices in response to societal concerns, observed the researchers. Objectives of the study include: to pinpoint where producers in the industry might improve, identify areas for possible consumer engagement, and highlight existing points of agreement.

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'Business Benchmark' for animal care gaining steam

October 2, 2014

More North American reaction expected around release of 2014 report

It could be called the emerging "Metrics Matrix" – the increasing drive at all levels of the global agriculture and food industries to implement measuring schemes for animal welfare and other aspects of sustainability.

One the farm animal welfare front, one particular initiative that rises above the clutter and worth keeping an eye on is the U.K.-based Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, which shows signs of increasing influence in North America.

Rising influence

Expect to hear more when the group releases the next annual installment of its signature annual benchmarking report – The BBFAW 2014 Report. Launched modestly in 2012 and 2013 gaining steam for 2014, the report initiative is billed as "the first global measure of animal welfare standards in food companies" and is "designed for use by investors, companies, NGOs and other interested stakeholders."

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Movers and shakers

October 2, 2014

Four story lines to watch

Fall is a busy time on the farm animal care file. Here's a snapshot of four key developments, among many, to follow:

1. Beef roundtables. The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef just wrapped up its AGM in Kelowna and preparations are underway for Canada's delegation to the Global Rountable meetings coming up Nov. 2-5 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Farm animal care is a key part of the agenda on both the national and international forums. Close to home, a major "Sustainability Asssessment" project is a key development. In November, Bill Thoni of Cargill will present the major Global Conference address on Animal Health & Welfare.

2. proAction. Next steps are anticipated for the dairy industry's proAction program, which is designed to help Canadian dairy farmers collectively demonstrate responsible stewardship of their animals and the environment, sustainably producing high quality and safe food. A key focus is animal welfare.

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October 2, 2014

Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors

When worlds collide

One of the NewStream editors has a strong interest in woodworking with hand tools. These personal interest areas are a different world and welcome break from our efforts as writers and editors on agricultural issues during the workday. It also seems unlikely the world of artisan and hobby woodworkers would ever connect with the world of farm animal care.

But that's exactly what happened on one popular woodworking forum recently. Popular woodworking coach and author Chris Schwarz wrote on his Lost Art Press blog about using hide glue, a traditional glue used in furniture making and popular because the gluing effect can be reversed. Yes, hide glue, as the name suggests, is produced from animal by-products.

Schwarz jokingly speculated in his article "A petition for Cruelty-free hide glue" that he wanted to start a petition to glue manufacturers to use liposuction to access the required animal by-products which would be easier on animals and produce "slimmer, more attractive livestock."

That led to some strong discussion online and eventually to woodworkers contacting glue suppliers to enquire about whether their products did indeed come from cruelty-free operations.

Glue manufacturer representatives quickly let Mr. Schwarz know their displeasure with being put on the spot, and his lack of knowledge on hide glue, leading to a second article "Petition for a tree substitute" asking for calm.

A small, some would find humorous example of the power of the internet, the expectations of society and the challenge of finding a place of solitude – anywhere – outside of the issues of the day.




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