Woolworths Group Limited is committed to protecting the welfare of animals in our supply chain. Animal welfare is fundamental to our business because our customers trust us to do the right thing and good animal welfare results in quality products.
Animal welfare is important to Woolworths, our suppliers and our customers and as such is a key component of the Woolworths Group Sustainability Strategy. It is integrated into how we do business. We are proud of our current progress and are committed to improving the lives of the animals in our supply chain through working with our farmers and suppliers. Working closely with our suppliers, we will continue to progress and influence animal welfare best practice within our supply chains. The Woolworths Group Animal Welfare Policy and all related Farm Animal Welfare policies unless explicitly stated, set out our minimum sourcing requirements and expectations for animal protein products across Woolworths Group
Woolworths Group consists of:
Each business has specific requirements concerning the geographical location of the business, and its supply chains outlined in the Animal Welfare Policy. Our animal welfare strategy and policy is underpinned by our core values “I care deeply” and “I always do the right thing”.
Woolworths Own Brand
Products are considered Own Brand when Woolworths Group Limited serves as the Brand Owner. As such, these products must meet the requirements set out in the brand guidelines and relevant policies during all new and existing product development. Compliance to these guidelines and policies are set out in the Own Brand Supply Agreement between Woolworths and the Product Manufacturer. An exemption must be requested where compliance to prescribed requirements cannot be met, with a time-bound action plan provided as to when compliance can be achieved.
Non Woolworths Brands
Any non-Woolworths brand products sold within Woolworths Group must meet our Woolworths terms of trading. All farm animals reared in Australia and New Zealand must comply with their relevant national and state requirements for farm animal production. In New Zealand, all animal owners or people in charge of animals must meet the Animal Welfare Act, including meeting the Ministry for Primary Industries codes of animal welfare that apply to them. New Zealand processors and manufacturers of animal products also have MPI audited risk management plans in place. In Australia under the Australian constitution, legislative responsibility for animal welfare rests primarily with State and territory governments who are responsible for animal production and welfare laws and their enforcement. The states and territories set and enforce animal welfare standards through administration of state legislation for animal welfare or the prevention of animal cruelty. Our Woolworths Terms of Trade stipulate that all relevant legislation must be met.
Woolworths Group has adopted the Farm Animal Welfare Committee’s (FAWC 2009) ‘Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare’. These freedoms are the framework that guides the development of Woolworths Group policies and procedures in this area. Woolworths Group is committed to driving continuous improvements to our animal welfare policies and procedures.
|1. Freedom from hunger and thirst||By providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain health and vigour|
|2. Freedom from discomfort||By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area|
|3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease||Through prevention, rapid diagnosis, and treatment|
|4. Freedom to express normal behaviour||By providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and the company of the animals' own kind|
|5. Freedom from fear and distress||By ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering|
Woolworths Group recognises that animals are sentient beings and should experience positive health and wellbeing. Together with our suppliers, we are working on going beyond the five freedoms and towards providing animals with a good life. This is why we also recognise the five domains and are working to provide the animals within our supply chains the opportunity to experience positive emotions such as pleasure, excitement and relaxation. By providing species-specific enrichment we allow them to display the positive behaviours that support these emotions. For example, the provision of pecking objects for our chickens allows them to exhibit natural foraging behaviour. For more information on this see the enrichment section.
The Five Animal Welfare Domains1
Animal Welfare Aims
|Good nutrition: provide ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full and vigour||Minimise thirst and hunger and enable eating to be a pleasurable experience|
|Good environment: Provide shade/shelter or suitable housing, good air quality and comfortable resting areas||Minimise discomfort and exposure and promote thermal, physical and other comforts|
|Good health: Prevent or rapidly diagnose and treat disease and injury, and foster good muscle tone, posture and cardiorespiratory function||Minimise breathlessness, nausea pain and other aversive experiences and promote the pleasures of robustness, vigour, strength and well-coordinated physical activity|
|Appropriate behaviour: Provide sufficient space, proper facilities, congenial company and appropriately varies conditions||Minimise threats and unpleasant restrictions on behaviour and promote engagement in rewarding activities|
|Positive mental experiences: Provide safe, congenial and species-appropriate opportunities to have pleasurable experiences||Promote various forms of comfort, pleasure, interest, confidence and a sense of control|
1Mellor, D.J. (2016). Updating animal welfare thinking: Moving beyond the ‘Five Freedoms’ towards ‘A Life Worth Living’. Animals 6, 21
We work in collaboration with the agricultural industry across the different protein areas and align where possible. In addition to this, we consult with veterinarians, academics, government representatives, training providers, The RSPCA, Animals Australia, World Animal Protection, and Compassion in World Farming. We are in our second year of working with FAI Farms Limited, global independent animal welfare and sustainability consultants to help us on the journey of improving our animal welfare metrics.
Woolworths is committed to delivering continual improvements in Animal Welfare. We have worked closely with Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection and other animal welfare organisations to improve our internationally recognised Business Benchmark for Animal Welfare (BBFAW) score. In 2020, Woolworths Group moved from Tier 3 to Tier 2, which demonstrates our ongoing work with suppliers to improve the lives of animals in our supply chain. There were only 23 companies around the world that achieved a Tier 2 or higher rating. We have an aim to achieve Tier 1 by 2025 which is outlined in our sustainability plan.
In November 2020 we announced our Woolworths Group Limited Sustainability Plan by working together to create a better tomorrow. This plan covers our 5 guiding principles and shows how we turn these into specific goals and detailed commitments that we aim to achieve by 2025. Our guiding principles underpin our Sustainability Plan 2025 and will guide our journey towards a better tomorrow. To turn guiding principles into action, we’ve broken them down into three distinct focus areas: People, Planet and Product. Each comes with its own set of goals and commitments which applies to both vendor brands and own brand unless stipulated. Animal Welfare is covered under the Product focus area, Goal 4: Lead the future of protein. Which covers the following commitments:
Animal welfare is incredibly important to Woolworths, our suppliers, and our customers. We are committed to improving the lives of animals within our supply chains. Our animal welfare commitments are underpinned by our animal welfare policy and strategy. The Sustainability Committee of the Board of Woolworths Group Limited has a Charter which details the committee’s duties as seen here. Animal welfare is included under the Environment section.
The Sustainability Committee is responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of Woolworths Group’s Sustainability policies and initiatives, including animal welfare. Woolworths’ senior management has accountability for managing farm animal welfare as part of the governance of our sustainability program, through regular Sustainability Steering Committee meetings. We publicly report our progress on animal welfare annually in the Woolworths Group Sustainability Report. We hold Monthly meetings with our senior team to review our progress across animal welfare in the protein space.
We are committed to the health and welfare of the animals within our supply chain. We are working with our suppliers and farmers to drive improvement and influence best practice. Woolworth’s animal welfare standards cover all practices from animal rearing, health, welfare, feed, production systems, environment, stocking density, through to transport and slaughter. Our policies apply to all species used in our Own Brand products and are implemented through our Woolworths Supplier Excellence Audit program which covers all business units. The Supplier Excellence Audit program is a series of audits suppliers will need to successfully complete based on a variety of Codes of Practices’ developed by Woolworths. This ensures the consistent supply of safe, ethical, quality and legally compliant products. All our Own Brand suppliers receive regular training around our standards. In addition, all abattoirs are independently audited by a third party to their relevant sector requirements detailed in our animal welfare policy.
Woolworths’ Own Brand suppliers must adhere to our policies and procedures. Our Animal Welfare requirements are included in our product briefs and brand guidelines and form part of our contractual obligations with suppliers. In addition to this, all suppliers must be part of a third party assurance scheme as well as being audited against Woolworths Codes of Practice within the Supplier Excellence Program which covers all business units. These measures are reported through Woolworths’ Supplier Excellence Program to the Animal Welfare Manager, Sustainable Sourcing team, Quality, and Sustainability teams. More details can be found below about the sector-specific requirements.
Day to day, animal welfare is managed by our Animal Welfare Manager. Woolworth’s teams regularly assess and analyse to ensure compliance and track progress against our commitments. It is the responsibility of the Animal Welfare Manager and relevant category team members to investigate and resolve any non-compliances and ensure these are closed out correctly and promptly.
Woolworths is constantly striving to improve farm animal welfare and health. We have recently updated our Group Animal Welfare Policy. Other targets we have in place include:
Woolworths Group believes that, to promote natural behaviour and positive mental experiences, environmental enrichment should be provided to all animals in Own Brand supply chains. We are working with our suppliers to embed enrichment provisions across all species and products.
Woolworths Group Limited is committed to the removal of close confinement systems from farm production in our supply chains where feasible.
To improve our performance in Animal Welfare, we have expanded our tracking of key health and welfare indicators, inputs and practices across all key species such as beef, lamb, pork, meat chickens, layer hens, and dairy cows in our Own Brand supply chains. This information will allow us to understand and track our performance in animal welfare and enable us to quantify the impact we are having on the lives of the animals within our supply chain so we can identify and focus on areas we want to improve.
The following sections refer to animal welfare in Australia. For more information on animal welfare operations in New Zealand, refer to Countdown's website.
Woolworths is committed to improving the lives of animals within our supply chains through increased data reporting and implementation of welfare outcome measures. This improves transparency on the welfare standards and practices within our supply chain, enables us to identify areas of best practice and improvement and to quantify our progress.
Our current animal welfare progress on our welfare commitments to date include:
To ensure we are continually improving we work with our suppliers, industry and research institutions in research and development in Animal Welfare within our supply chains. Including focusing on areas such as new production methods and technologies.
We regularly provide input into national standards and guideline reviews across the protein species, contributing to national policy review and inputting to government consultations to help improve animal welfare across Australia. Our Animal Welfare Manager sits on the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Feedlot Benchmarking Steering Committee, contributing to the animal welfare requirements at feedlots. Woolworths will also input into independent standard reviews concerning our Woolworths sourcing requirements. Our own Woolworths sourcing policies, standards and requirements in relation to animal welfare will go through independent review.
We recently announced The Woolworths Dairy Innovation Fund which will commit $5 million over 3 years to deliver innovation grants to dairy farmers in our supply chain. The Dairy Fund will allow farmers to invest capital improvements which they may not have been able to afford and will help on-farm efficiency, improved infrastructure and equipment including continued benefits to animal welfare. This follows on from the success of the Woolworths Organic Fund which continues to support the growth of the organic sector by partnering with growers and providing them with grants and loans to further develop their businesses. For more information see here.
We launched our annual Woolworths Animal Welfare Horizons Fund. Its purpose is to help support research and development for our farmers and suppliers to address welfare opportunities, challenges, projects, and initiatives. The fund assists suppliers in tackling issues associated with animal welfare and with the ultimate goal of having a positive effect on the animals within the supply chain. The fund promotes the importance of animal welfare downstream of the supply chain, benefiting our farmers and their animals directly. We had three successful projects across our beef and pork supply chains. With projects looking at improving welfare metrics such as reducing lameness, improving cattle health and welfare and looking at removing confinement such as free farrowing. As these projects progress we will be reporting on the progress.
FAI Farms Ltd - We are into our second year of working with FAI Farms Limited to ensure we continue to improve the lives of animals within our supply chains, FAI provides independent review, input and support to our animal welfare policies and procedures.
The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework - We believe strong collaboration is the most effective approach in addressing the sustainability concerns surrounding beef production, and we are an active member of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework (ABSF) Consultative Committee. The framework defines sustainable beef production, and animal welfare forms part of their six key priorities. The ABSF allows Woolworths to engage with a variety of stakeholders to identify and protect high conservation value areas within our supply chains and work with suppliers, governments, producers and other corporate and NGO partners to achieve this.
As part of the ABSF’s Consultative Committee, Woolworths supports the annual performance review of a number of sustainability indicators including environmental stewardship. These indicators will help deliver the first national tree and grass cover measures for the beef industry.
Tess Herbert, the chair of the Sustainability Steering Group (SSG) of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, as well as a supplier of Woolworths cattle says:
“Sustainably producing beef is incredibly important to the longevity of the Australian beef industry. It is great to see this is a priority area for Woolworths and the industry looks forward to working with them on this journey”.
The Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework - In 2021 Woolworths attended the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework Consultative Forum to input into the Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Framework, specifically participating in the discussion group for Commitment 3 - Providing best care for all our animals. We are currently supporting important work for animal welfare by participating in Dairy Australia’s South Coast Calf Pathways pilot project which aims to facilitate a transition away from traditional management of surplus dairy calves through the design and commercialisation of alternative practices that are both socially acceptable and financially viable.
Poultry and eggs are an important component of many of our customers' daily diets and the welfare of these birds need to be met at all times. 100% of the fresh poultry and eggs used in our Australian products are produced from farms regionally across Australia.
Our suppliers are all trained in relevant sector-specific requirements e.g. RSPCA Approved or FREPA as well as meeting Woolworths’ Supplier Excellence Programme standards.
100% of Woolworths Own Brand fresh chicken and visible ingredient chicken in Woolworths Own Brand products comes from higher welfare RSPCA Approved farms(2). The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme focuses on improving farm animal welfare. Farms that participate in the scheme are regularly assessed independently by the RSPCA and raise their animals to detailed animal welfare standards. These assessments ensure that Woolworths Chickens are farmed according to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standard and are provided with environmental enrichment, such as perches and pecking objects, good quality litter for dustbathing and are given more space to move to encourage them to be active and exhibit natural behaviours.
RSPCA Approved farms have a focus on providing for meat chickens’ behavioural and physical needs. Meat chickens have good lighting which encourages them to be active during the day, whilst also having sufficient dark periods for rest. They have more space to move about, flap their wings, forage, and scratch. Perches are given so birds can perch to rest and keep their bones and muscles strong. Good quality litter is provided and managed so that birds can dustbathe and keep their feathers clean. These provisions, along with a combination of factors, provide meat chickens with a better quality of life. Any non-conformances with the Standard raised at an assessment will be closed out as soon as possible. Audit performance is discussed at regular meetings between RSPCA Australia, Woolworths and the supplier. This helps to identify any areas that require improvements in the next year.
RSPCA Standards are publicly available to download here.
Our Woolworths Own Brand RSPCA Approved chicken is grown to:
Woolworths committed that all our ingredient chicken within Woolworths products would be RSPCA Approved by December 2020. In April 2020 we achieved this target. All our products that contain RSPCA Approved chicken carry the RSPCA Approved certification.
“The RSPCA has been proud to work with Woolworths and their suppliers to ensure all their own brand fresh chicken is sourced from RSPCA Approved farms since 2014. Now all of Woolworths branded fresh chicken and the Australian chicken used as an ingredient in Woolworths branded products is 100% RSPCA Approved. A significant achievement that demonstrates the company’s recognition that improving animal welfare applies to products across their ranges, and not just the fresh produce category. RSPCA Australia looks forward to continuing our work with Woolworths, to improve the welfare of farm animals across their supply chains.” RSPCA Australia
We continue to work closely with the RSPCA and have generated a series of educational videos which are used as part of our Animal Welfare training but also used as part of our marketing of the RSPCA Approved products. Read the RSPCA’s blog RSPCA Approved chicken in Woolworths – and what’s it all about?
RSPCA Approved Good Food Series - Setting the standards
RSPCA Approved Good Food Series - Raising the standards
RSPCA Approved Good Food Series - Embracing the standards
2 Excludes pet food, gravy, and stocks. Our small number of imported canned and boxed chicken products are certified by independent foreign accreditations.
All Woolworths Own Brand fresh whole turkey comes from higher welfare RSPCA Approved farms (2).
In 2020, we transitioned to source all of our Woolworths brand fresh whole turkeys to RSPCA Approved farms in time for Christmas.
Turkeys on RSPCA Approved farms are encouraged to be active. They have good lighting, perches, dry litter floor covering to scratch and dustbathe, interesting objects to peck and space to move. These provisions, along with a combination of factors, provide turkeys with a better quality of life.
“Woolworths' participation in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme means farms supplying the supermarket undergo a robust certification process and millions of birds are reared with a focus on animal welfare every year. Because of this commitment by Woolworths and their suppliers, it's easier than ever for customers to support better farming by choosing certified higher welfare RSPCA Approved chicken and turkey when they shop.” Richard Mussell, RSPCA Australia CEO
All Woolworths Macro Free Range chicken and turkey are FREPA (Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia) accredited and carry the FREPA logo making this accreditation clear to customers. FREPA Accreditation ensures that the birds are raised and provided with the following:
FREPA Accredited farmers provide constant monitoring of their flocks and are trained in the latest biosecurity measures to ensure all FREPA flocks are safe and protected. FREPA Accredited farms are found across all states of Australia and provide fresh high welfare poultry to our customers all year round.
“All free-range chicken and turkey sold at Woolworths is accredited by Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia (FREPA). Routine auditing is performed by qualified independent auditors to ensure farms and processing facilities meet the required FREPA Standards, which are based on best practice and animal welfare for commercial free range farming.” Alan Murray, President of FREPA
At Woolworths, eggs are an important component of many of our customers’ shopping baskets. To ensure quality and food safety, all Woolworths Own Brand eggs must be produced to the Woolworths Supplier Excellence Audit program, which includes complying with the egg industry’s own Quality Assurance program, Egg Standards of Australia (ESA). All Woolworths Brand eggs must meet ESA Level 3 for Rearing and Layer Farms and Grading and Packing Floors or equivalent, or higher. Compliance with both Standards to Level 3 provides assurance of quality practices employed on farms from the rearing of day-old chicks to the packing of eggs for sale.
ESA for Rearing and Laying Farms covers all aspects of production including hen welfare, egg quality, biosecurity, work health and safety, and environmental management. The aspects of animal welfare which must be complied with are are: ensuring employees handling the hens receive adequate training to do so, providing ideal lighting and air quality, providing adequate food and water to the hens in a safe environment, providing environmental enrichments such as perches and nesting boxes, maintaining a healthy stocking density, and daily monitoring of hen health and production. All Woolworths Own Brand suppliers are assessed annually to ensure their compliance with ESA Level 3 in both Standards.
In 2015 we stopped selling caged eggs under the Woolworths brand. This means 100% of Woolworths Brand whole eggs are cage-free, laid by hens free from close confinement. We are continuing our work towards using only cage-free eggs as an ingredient in Own Brand products by 2025. We are also committed to all supplier branded whole shell eggs being cage-free by 2025.
At Woolworths, the Own Brand products we sell which are 100% cage-free are split between:
In addition to ESA Level 3, our organic eggs are also produced to the Australian Certified Organic standard.
It is important to ensure that egg laying hens have access to environmental enrichment so that they can express their natural behaviours. 100% of our egg layer hens for Woolworths Own Brand have access to enrichment, including a range of perches, pecking projects, hay/straw bales, trees and dust bathing boxes.
Woolworths has completed a study with the University of Sydney of Avian Influenza Risk Mitigation for the Free Range sector of the Australian Poultry sector. The study has been shared with a selection of our egg farmers.
We are also committed to offering customers a range of eggs that supports animal welfare outcomes. Selected stores in South Australia offer Rohde's Free Range Eggs, which have been a part of the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme for well over a decade.
We are proud to report that we have been awarded the Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) Good Egg Award in 2019 for our commitment to ending the sale of caged eggs and caged egg products in our stores.
All our beef, lamb and pork is sourced by our dedicated Woolworths GreenStock expert Livestock Team across Australia. Our livestock team are based regionally across Australia and, between them, have over 250 years of experience, spending most of their time out on the farm with our producers. Many of our farmers have supplied Woolworths for many generations and are focused on good animal welfare as well as providing a consistent, high quality product. Our Woolworths livestock procurement team are all highly experienced in livestock production, animal handling and animal welfare and hold the relevant independent training requirements in animal welfare.
It is important to us that cattle in our supply chains are raised in a way that promotes responsible production to benefit people, communities, and the planet.
All our Woolworths cattle are sourced directly from Australian farms by one of our experienced livestock team. 100% of our Woolworths cattle spend the beginning of their lives on farms out at grass, ensuring that all of our Woolworths cattle have access to pasture-based enrichment during their lives. Any cattle destined for grain-fed systems will be on grass until the last couple of months. All the beef we source needs to meet the requirements of our animal welfare policy as well as meeting all national regulations, legislation and the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) farm requirements. Our feedlot beef is accredited by the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS). The NFAS incorporates a strict animal welfare component, which ensures the cattle in an accredited feedlot are well cared for and monitored daily. Feed, water and air quality, temperature and heat levels are constantly checked. If an animal displays any signs of illness, it is treated by livestock team members trained by a veterinarian.
Our Woolworths Grass fed beef range is free from artificially added growth promotants or enhancers. Our organic beef range is free from artificially added growth promotants and free from antibiotics, the cattle are all organically fed.
All our Woolworths fresh pork is Australian and independently audited to the Australian Pork Industry Quality (APIQ) standard, which means that our Woolworths fresh pork comes from systems that meet the APIQ Gestation Stall Free standards.
The Woolworths Pork Blueprint has been independently reviewed. Implementation of this has been delayed to 2021 due to COVID restrictions. This end-to-end program focuses on animal husbandry and welfare, and enables us to work with our suppliers to address challenges such as tail clipping. We are currently investigating cold cauterisation of tails on our Own Brand pork. Surgical castration is prohibited within our Woolworths pigs. 100% of pigs requiring castration have been immuno-castrated in line with veterinarian approval. We are committed to improving the lives of animals within our supply chains and over the last year, we have worked with our suppliers to ensure all our fresh pork is free from any artificially added hormones, growth enhancers or promotants.
Our free range pork is certified to the APIQ Free Range standard and is carbon neutral from gate to plate certified through the Carbon Reduction Institute. The pigs have access to the outdoors year-round where they are free to forage, are provided with access to soil, pasture, bedding, and shelter from the elements. This enables them to exhibit natural social and physical behaviour.
Woolworths fresh lamb is 100% Australian. Only 20% of Woolworths’ lambs are sourced from accredited saleyards with 80% sourced straight from the farm. No Woolworths lamb is mulesed. All Woolworths lamb abattoirs are certified by the Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) administered by the Australian Meat Industry Council.
Our Farmers’ Own fresh milk comes from farms regionally across Australia. The Farmers Own initiative was started in 2013 with Farmers from the Manning Valley in NSW. The brand began with a trial of just eight local stores within the Manning Valley and 12 Sydney stores in NSW. Its success saw the brand expand into VIC, QLD, WA, SA and NT, all the while building direct relationships with Farmers from key provincial areas within these states (Margaret River WA, Otways Regions VIC, Sunshine Coast Hinterland QLD and Barossa Mid North Region SA). In a challenging time for Australian Dairy Farmers, Farmers Own has been a good news story. We have direct relationships with our Farmers and not via a processor or a Co-op to ensure they are getting a good deal every time. Our goal is to pay our Farmers a good price for their milk that allows them to continue to produce quality milk. We pick up milk from their farms and transport directly to be processed so we know exactly where the milk comes from that goes into Farmers' Own milk. Our Farmers are engaged in the branding and feel a sense of belonging to the brand because it is their milk that goes into each bottle. We work with our farmers on sustainable and good animal husbandry practices and our farmers and families are proudly active in promoting Farmers' Own branded milk in their communities.
Our Farmers’ Own dairy herd has no permanently housed cattle, or tie-stall systems and most of our cows have access to at least 18 hours a day, 365 days of the year - increased from 320 days last year. Currently 94.7% of Farmers have a foot care and mastitis reduction program in place and we are working towards closing this gap. Routine tail docking and euthanizing of bull calves on-farm and induced calving are prohibited other than for health and welfare reasons. Many of our farmers keep and raise their male calves on their farms; male calves are kept for an average of 89 days across the group, which is slightly down on the previous year of 123 days, due to a higher market demand in cattle after the drought.
For our Woolworths Brand white milk and fresh cream, our suppliers also report that herds have no permanently housed cattle, or tie-stall systems. Each has a company farm standard in place that covers animal welfare. Of this cohort, routine tail docking and induced calving are not conducted on-farm.
More information on The Farmers Own Dairy Milk can be found here.
More information on Woolworths Drought relief milk can be found here.
As an Australian supermarket with a large seafood range we are committed to working with industry to fish more sustainably, to avoid further decline in fish stocks and harm to the marine environment.
Our Sustainability Plan 2025 maps our aspiration to have 100% of our Own Brand seafood ecologically responsible or sustainably sourced.
Woolworths Seafood Sourcing Policy requires that all of our Own Brand fish and seafood from sources that are third-party certified or independently verified as ecologically responsible.
Third-party certifications accepted by Woolworths are:
Within each of these standards are requirements for animal welfare. For example the prophylactic use of antibiotics is prohibited in each of the above schemes, genetic engineering is prohibited or limited to only certain species, slaughter of fish must be humane, or consider the welfare of the animal in BAP and GLOBALG.A.P, respectively, pre-slaughter stunning is compulsory for GLOBALG.A.P certified products, and water quality must be within ranges suitable for the relevant species in GLOBALG.A.P certified products.
Our approach to animal welfare in fin fish and seafood will continue to develop as we assess our animal welfare requirements and measurement against key animal welfare outcome measures.
For more information on our Woolworths Seafood and our seafood sourcing policy please visit Woolworths Sustainable Seafood.
We see training our people as a crucial part of helping deliver our animal welfare commitments and requirements. All those involved in handling live animals must be appropriately trained, including Woolworths staff. Our suppliers and farmers must meet the training requirements within industry standards and meet any additional requirements within any independent standards which are applicable. Recently we launched our bespoke Woolworths Animal Welfare training in collaboration with AusMeat to the Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) standards. To provide all our Livestock, processing and sustainable sourcing team with practice, in person independent animal welfare training. Using Compassion in World Farming Animal Welfare training – Basic level 1 as a template, we have started training our colleagues on Animal Welfare of Broiler Chickens, Hens and Pigs.
The Sustainable Sourcing and Agriculture team provides regular training to team members in the animal welfare space. We hold regular training sessions around animal welfare for our team members concerning the overview of policy and commitments, changes in policy, and updating of standards. In addition to this, job changers or new starters who are going to be working in the protein area will also have training in the requirements for that area.
We have regular Sustainability Lunch & Learns open to the 200,000+ team members of the Woolworths Group. Such as one of our Lunch & Learns featured RSPCA Australia discussing the importance of animal welfare, the collaboration between Woolworths and RSPCA Australia and the achievement of Woolworths meeting our RSPCA chicken commitment.
We provide content for our store team members who are involved in the selling of protein products around the sourcing criteria which includes the animal welfare standards so that they may communicate our progress and ambitions in improving farm animal welfare.
We believe collaboration with our suppliers will help achieve the best outcomes. We actively engage with our supply base through on-site visits, training on our standards and training through our supplier platforms. Our Animal Welfare Manager, sustainable sourcing and procurement teams, including the livestock team, make regular visits to our farmers and suppliers. These visits support them on the implementation of our sourcing requirements including our animal welfare policy and procedures. Any issues on these visits in regards to animal welfare will be raised to the Woolworths Animal Welfare manager as well as the senior team at the supplier. We regularly meet with suppliers to discuss and ensure they are either maintaining or working towards our prescribed standards and identifying opportunities where further support from Woolworths or its partners may be required. Woolworths also hosts a variety of supplier updates across the year where Quality, Commercial, and Sustainability teams update on progress and any new requirements.
Our suppliers are all trained to our standards and sourcing requirements, there are regular training sessions held for our suppliers including animal welfare requirements and standards.
Woolworths also holds a Sustainable Supplier of the Year Award which recognises excellence in the areas of animal welfare, sustainability, and human rights. This year our Award went to Rivalea. Rivalea Australia was recognised as Woolworths’ Sustainability Supplier of the Year for its high animal welfare standards and impressive carbon reduction innovations. Rivalea has partnered with Woolworths over the last 30 years, providing high quality pork from its farms across New South Wales and Victoria. Rivalea’s methane capture program is an example of best practice on-farm emissions reduction, delivering an environmental benefit equivalent to taking 9,000 cars off the road each year. The methane collected is converted to electricity which powers most of its largest farm and processing plant. More information about the award can be found here.
It is important to Woolworths that our customers know about our animal welfare achievements and commitments. How our farmers and suppliers work hard to improve animal welfare without supply chains to bring our customers great quality products.
All products produced to a certified / approved standard such as RSPCA Approved will hold the certification logo on the pack to help customers identify high welfare products. The Discovery section of our Supermarkets website provides insights into our Sustainability initiatives including Animal Welfare. We have recently updated this to bring our customers more information on Sustainability including animal welfare. Where possible products are linked to more information on the website such as our RSPCA Approved Chicken. We now also have a dedicated section on our shopping website for our customers to be able to find more information on our products ‘Meet the Farmers’. We have increased our number of producer stories, such as meeting our long standing beef farmers Scott and Katie Lloyd.
All our customers can access via hard copy delivered to every store or online for our monthly Fresh Magazine. Fresh has recently featured “Meet our Farmers” which includes where our products are sourced and to what standard. We have also been running a series of National TV adverts which support our ‘Meet our Farmer” campaign.
Several of our stores contain Point of Sale (POS) call outs to inform customers of responsible choices. This includes branding for RSPCA Approved Chicken. We have increased the amount of supply stories we call out in our stores.
We also included a full page on RSPCA Approved chicken in our online catalogue when we reached our target of RSPCA Approved chicken in ingredient. Our catalogues reach 7.8 million customers each week.
This year we have increased our communications around animal welfare including:
Woolworths has long-standing sponsorships with the major agricultural shows in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. These events bring the country to the city, and through competitions and events celebrate the best of Australian agriculture and provide an insight into where our Woolworth food comes from. Find out more about our involvement with Agricultural Shows and Scholarships across Australia.
We understand that improving and increasing our data metrics and collection will help drive our performance around animal welfare. We have continued to embed our welfare outcome measures programme across our supply chain. The following section relates to metrics captured across our Own Brand fresh supply chains which for meat, 97% is Own Brand.
Last year we launched our Welfare Outcome Measure programme. Our suppliers must record progress against Welfare Outcome Measures (WOMs) and supply data when required (the frequency of data collection has been defined for each species). These outcomes help us identify animal welfare issues concerning physical, mental and behavioural wellbeing. This data is used to allow us to quantify our performance and measure continual improvement within our supply chains. We will continue to capture this data, which will be published once we have established a baseline data set and will provide further information on our performance and key trends. Some of the data metrics captured include injured animals, transport time, slips, trips, falls and vocalisation and dead on arrival (DOA’s). Each species has specific data metrics which are captured. In addition to this, we also collect data about our supply chains through supplier audits, on-site visits and regular supplier animal welfare questionnaires. In F21 we have further increased the data we are collecting across species.
All our processing plants for beef, lamb and pork must be independently certified annually by the Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) as well as meeting our own Woolworths standards for our abattoirs which covers animal welfare across transport, lairage and slaughter. Both audits are conducted by an independent 3rd party certification body, results are reported to the Woolworths team including the Woolworths Animal Welfare Manager and Processing team and any non-conformances are actioned immediately by the supplier.
The AAWCS best practice standards cover all aspects of animal welfare, from receival of livestock at the establishment to the point of processing. The standard covers planning, procedures, facilities, equipment, training and livestock handling; including minimising stress and injuries all helping to prevent or mitigate risks to animal welfare.
RSPCA Approved - All our poultry sites are audited annually to the RSPCA Approved standards.
All Woolworths Group Poultry, Beef, Lamb, and Pork abattoirs must have CCTV in place within key animal handling processing areas. Woolworths can access this CCTV during audits and upon request. Any non-conformances will be reported to Woolworths Group Limited’s Animal Welfare Manager for investigation and resolution.
We acknowledge that Australia is a vast country and work with our suppliers to reduce transport times where possible. However, Australia is a country which experiences extreme weather conditions such as sustained periods of drought, flooding and bush fires and when this occurs livestock can require at times to be moved to ensure safety, adequate feed to maintain health, vigour and nutritional requirements. Our processing sites and abattoirs are located regionally to further reduce transport times.
Transportation times must be minimised at all times and, where possible, transport times should not exceed 8 hours. The welfare of animals must never be compromised. Woolworths encourages livestock transporters to have independent transport schemes in place such as TruckSafe and must adhere to the National Transport Guidelines. We’ve completed a transport standard in association with the Australian Trucking Association and Truck Safe. Average transport times are listed under each species.
Below are our average transport times. On average our poultry is transported for less than 1.5 hours. Any incidents involving transportation of Woolworths livestock must be reported for the Animal Welfare Manager or a member of the livestock team and the relevant Animal Welfare certification scheme for investigation and resolution.
We continue to report on our transport times and have expanded the species included in our reporting.
All livestock sold under Woolworths Group Limited must have been humanely slaughtered. All beef, lamb, pork and poultry must be pre-slaughter stunned. All farmed fish must be slaughtered using methods that result in rapid and irreversible loss of consciousness. Suppliers must record the number of animals that are ineffectively stunned and/or require back up stunning. This is verified at audit and captured through our welfare outcome measures. The stunning and slaughter method varies by species and we work with suppliers to ensure the procedure is humane and uses the best available techniques.
We continue to report on our stunning efficiency across our supply chains.
Woolworths Group believes that, to promote natural behaviour and positive mental experiences, environmental enrichment should be provided to all animals in Own Brand supply chains. To see our progress to date see the table below on species-specific enrichment provided and the positive behaviours that they are designed to encourage in addition to what is outlined in the species specific information above.
We continue to increase the data we collect in this space. We have seen positive improvements in pork and now disclose a number of new metrics across species.
Woolworths Group is committed to eradicating the practice of routine mutilations and is working with suppliers to find alternatives. Mutilations should only be undertaken to protect the welfare of the animals, and any procedures must be carried out by a trained and competent individual using the most humane techniques and recognised best practice with appropriate analgesia administered to minimise pain. In addition to our Animal Welfare Policy requirements, the below table shows our progress around routine mutilations. If beak trimming/tipping is to be used in layer hens, only infrared treatment of day-old chicks is used and will only be carried out by appropriately trained staff.
Woolworths Group Limited is committed to the removal of close confinement systems from farm production in our supply chains where feasible. The table below shows our progress in this area.
We have had a number of improvements within our animal welfare outcome measures such as our suppliers continue to focus on this area such as a reduction in mastatitus levels and mortality rates, we have also seen and a few declines such as hock and footpad lesions this is due to increasing our data collection across our supply base but also the change in weather conditions across Australia.
We have had a number of improvements within our animal welfare outcome measures such as levels of mastitis and lameness in our Farmers Own dairy pool approximately halving in the last year. This is due to a continued focus from our farmers in this area.
We have also had a few declines such as increases in broken wings, footpad lesions and hock lesions in meat chickens. This is due to an increase in the data we are collecting across our supply base, the levels are more in line with what we would expect to see as we continue to establish our baseline of data.
In FY 2020/2021, we have increased the number of welfare outcome measures we report on, and we have begun to report on outcome measures for finfish. We will continue to track and trend these measures year on year.
Our suppliers work to prescribed standards as outlined in the table below.
We have increased our reporting to include % of animals growing in housing across pork and layer chickens.
In addition to reporting group housing we are also capturing the stocking densities across a number of species within our supply chains.
In addition to the Woolworths Australia information above we have also begun collecting and reporting animal welfare performance and impact data for Woolworths Group Ltd (Woolworths Supermarkets Australia and Countdown New Zealand). We have begun collecting this information for our fresh supply which represents 79% of our Own Brand products from animal proteins. Ingredient products represent 20% and frozen 1%. We will continue to increase the data we collect across our total supply chain. The data in the following table relates to Woolworths Group Fresh Own Brand products unless stated otherwise.
Within our food business, we aim for improved animal welfare standards across all farming systems – from breeding to rearing and through to slaughter. In markets where suppliers are working to legal requirements, we aim to work with our supply chain partners to drive improvements in standards up the supply chain. Similarly, within our non-food business, we will only use animal products (e.g. feathers or leather), which are a by-product of the food industry. We prohibit the live-plucking of feathers. We have an ambition to only sourcing from farms adhering to the same standards we set for our food business.
All pet accessories sold in our stores, such as collars or bowls, undergo rigorous testing to ensure that they are safe and comfortable for the animal. Instructions for use are clearly stated on the label.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a globally significant challenge to public health. Although there are a number of drivers of AMR, the contribution of medicine use in food-producing animals is now widely acknowledged. The responsible usage of antibiotics in agriculture is of paramount importance in preserving the toolbox of medicines that we depend on to support human and animal health.
At Woolworths we recognise the importance of antibiotics in human and animal medicine and the public health risk of antimicrobial resistance that can arise from their use – in particular, their misuse and overuse. We encourage our producers to optimise welfare, health, hygiene, husbandry and biosecurity of animals in order to avoid the need to use antibiotic treatment, unless the welfare of an animal is compromised. Veterinary medicines, including antibiotics must only be used under veterinary guidance.
We support and encourage industry best practice, guidelines and initiatives around responsible antimicrobial stewardship within our supply chains. We expect and encourage our suppliers to use antibiotics responsibly. We are currently reviewing and working with our supply base to restrict usage of any 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and colistin – identified by the World Health Organisation as the ‘highest priority critically important antimicrobials’ for human health1 and the Australian Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (ASTAG) as ‘high’ importance antibiotics2 - to animals with diseases that are not responsive to other treatments, and when supported by diagnostic test results. Each farm must have their own herd health plan and a vet must provide guidance or oversee all medical treatments.
Woolworths works closely with industry to ensure a collaborative approach to Antimicrobial Stewardship. We support and encourage industry best practice, guidelines and initiatives around responsible antimicrobial stewardship within our supply chains. All antibiotics used within the livestock sectors in Australia have to be approved by the APVMA. Each sector has their own Antimicrobial Stewardship programme, which Woolworths supports3. Animal Health Australia
Woolworth's has developed a ‘5Rs’ approach to antimicrobial stewardship, building upon the 3Rs approach widely accepted across the global food industry as a framework for ‘reducing, replacing and refining’ the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture4. We expect our suppliers to adhere to the following principles:
Woolworths expects our suppliers to use antibiotics responsibly. This means we support and encourage our suppliers to follow industry best practice, guidelines and initiatives around responsible antimicrobial stewardship. and expect suppliers and producers to have antimicrobial stewardship and herd/flock health plans in place.
Woolworths seeks to reduce where possible the use of medically important antibiotics, whilst preserving animal health and welfare. We are particularly focused on discontinuing the use of routine prophylactic treatments, and medicines classified by WHO (2019) as highest priority critically important to human health and ASTAG as ‘high’ importance antibiotics. These medicines are the 3rd and higher generation cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and colistin, and use should be restricted to animals with diseases that are not responsive to other treatments, and when supported by diagnostic test results
Woolworths seeks to refine the use of antimicrobial agents in our supply chains by ensuring the responsible and informed selection and administration of products to animals that have a clinical indication for treatment. This means we expect medicine use on our supplying farms to be administered to animals for treatment or metaphylaxis, in compliance with the veterinary prescription and instructions regarding drug selection, dose rate, duration, frequency, route of administration, withdrawal period, handing, storage and disposal of the medicine. Where appropriate, diagnostic tests (for example, culture and sensitivity tests) should be deployed under veterinary advice to ensure an effective antibiotic is selected.
Woolworths works with and supports industry to reduce the overall need to use antibiotics. Woolworths supports the replacement of antibiotic use in animals where possible with evidence-based alternatives to prevent health and welfare challenges, which may include vaccination, supplements and probiotics, improved husbandry and management practices to improve welfare, and changes in genetics. Proactive herd/flock health planning and analysis of medicine records should support the identification and control of prevalent diseases on farm, and welfare challenges that may predispose to disease, with a view to replacing antibiotic use with sustainable alternatives.
Woolworths understands the importance of a data-driven approach to antimicrobial stewardship, and encourages our suppliers to collect antimicrobial usage data from supply in order to understand baseline levels of use, monitor trends and support reductions. This is a challenging area and we are working to set a precedent by firstly putting in place frameworks to support data collection processes.
If you have any further questions or concerns around Woolworths animal welfare policies, procedures and principles please contact: email@example.com
1World Health Organisation (2019) Critically important antibiotics for human medicine. 6th Edition. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/antimicrobials-sixth/en/ (accessed 11 September 2020)
2Australian Government (2018) Importance Ratings and Summary of Antibacterial Uses in Human and Animal Health in Australia. Retrieved from: https://www.amr.gov.au/resources/importance-ratings-and-summary-antibacterial-uses-human-and-animal-health-australia (accessed 22 September 2020)
3Australian Eggs Limited (2018) Antimicrobial stewardship in the Australian livestock industries. Retrieved from: https://www.animalhealthaustralia.com.au/antimicrobial-stewardship-in-australian-livestock-industries/ (accessed 22 September 2020)
4FAI (2018) FAI presents the 3Rs approach to antimicrobial stewardship in livestock supply chains. Retrieved from: https://www.faifarms.com/portfolio-item/fai-presents-a-3rs-approach-to-antimicrobial-stewardship-in-livestock-supply-chains/ (accessed 11 September 2020)