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Our Planet

Animal Welfare

Principles and Policies

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 to ensure a continued focus on improving farm animal welfare outcomes. 

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 Own Brand products across Woolworths Group. This includes Australian Supermarkets, Big W and Countdown New Zealand.  Separate to this, each business has specific requirements concerning the geographical location of the business, and its supply chains. Endeavor Group is excluded due to its nature as a drinks business.   Our animal welfare strategy and policy is underpinned by our core values “I care deeply” and “I always do the right thing”.  

Woolworths Group has adopted the Farm Animal Welfare Committee’s (FAWC 2009) ‘Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare’. These freedoms are the framework that guide 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.

Freedom

Provision

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst By providing ready access to freshwater 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.  Which 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 chicken allows them to exhibit natural foraging behaviour. For more information on this see the enrichment section.

The Five Animal Welfare Domains1

Domains
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 have aligned our policy and standards with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and we are working towards a Tier 1 Score on the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW).  

We have recently started working with FAI Farms Limited, global independent animal welfare and sustainability consultants to help us on the journey of improving our animal welfare metrics.

Policies

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. Woolworths 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.

The following represent minimum requirements across Woolworths Group Limited. Business-specific requirements are outlined in the Animal Welfare Policy linked above.

Animal Health & Welfare:

  • Farms must meet any current local legislative requirements as a minimum.
  • Animals should only be transported when their welfare can be appropriately managed, and transport should not be the cause of an animal’s welfare deteriorating. Animal transport times must be minimised at all times and must adhere to the relevant national transport requirements and/or codes. Suppliers should target 8 hours or less transportation time.
  • Livestock must be fed an adequate diet to maintain health and vigour and meet the nutrition requirements of that animal. Clean water must always be available and easily accessible.
  • 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. Where certain practices are currently unavoidable within the industry (e.g. disbudding or castration of male cattle or sheep) suppliers must utilise early intervention. 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.
  • All livestock must have been humanely slaughtered and all animals must be pre-slaughter stunned. Suppliers must record the pre-slaughter stunning process and efficacy of the system.
  • Abattoirs must have CCTV in place for key animal handling processing areas.
  • All abattoirs and processing sites must have been independently assessed to the individual sector requirements.
  • All people involved in handling animals must be appropriately trained and/or hold any relevant certifications.
  • All Woolworths and Countdown branded fresh pork is gestation sow stall-free.
  • It is important that where antibiotics are used, they are used responsibly within our supply chains to protect the health and welfare of animals when they are ill, as well as reducing the threat of antimicrobial resistance on human health.
  • Antibiotics will only be used within our supply chains under the supervision and guidance of a veterinary surgeon. All our suppliers are encouraged to adopt the 5R’s approach which centres around the principles of Responsibility, Reduction, Refinement, Replacement and Review.
  • No livestock is allowed to originate from genetically modified or cloned stock. This includes dairy, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, pigs, farmed finfish and shellfish.
  • Dairy, lamb, poultry, eggs, pigs, farmed finfish and shellfish species and Countdown beef must be reared without added hormonal growth promotants. In Australia we work to the national beef industry standards.
  • Animals used to produce organic ranges of meat, eggs and milk must be reared on non-Genetically Modified feed.
  • Genetically Modified feed is allowed in the production of our non-organic meat, eggs and milk (Woolworths POL.044 ‘Genetically Modified (GM) Ingredients’).
  • Woolworths Group will not sell farmed rabbit, fur products including angora rabbit fibre, horse meat or Foie Gras.
  • Woolworths Group non food products will only use animal products (e.g. feathers or leather) which are a by-product of the food industry. We prohibit live-plucking of feathers.
  • Woolworths Group does not allow monkeys to be used in harvesting of coconuts or coconut derived products.
  • Woolworths Group prohibits any animal testing for our Own Brand products. Woolworths Group will not commission or request animal testing of its Own Brand products or raw materials that are used within its Own Brand product formulations. We will however at this time accept Toxicity Testing for Home Compostable as per the AS 5810-2010 and Industrially Compostable as per AS4736-2006 (or latest editions of these standards) until an appropriate in vitro method is applied to this standard.

Woolworths Group Animal Welfare - Governance, Implementation and Management

Governance

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.

Implementation

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, Quality, and Sustainability teams.More details can be found below about the sector-specific requirements.

Management

Day to day, animal welfare is managed by our Animal Welfare Manager. Woolworths 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. 

Commitments and Target Setting

The following sections refer to the animal welfare in Australia. For more information on animal welfare operations in New Zealand, refer to Countdown's website.

Commitments

Woolworths is committed to improving the lives of animals within our supply chains through increased data reporting and implementation of welfare outcome measures.  Some of our achievements include: 

  1. 100% of Woolworths brand fresh chicken is RSPCA Approved 
  2. 100% of Woolworths pigs are certified Gestation Stall Free (GSF)

In addition to this in the last 12 months we have achieved the following: 

  1. Removed paylean from 100% of our Woolworths pigs, 
  2. Reached our goal of 100% of Woolworths Own Brand fresh chicken and chicken used as an ingredient in Woolworths Own Brand products comes from RSPCA Approved farms* (8 months ahead of plan), 
  3. Launched our animal welfare outcome measure programme collecting monthly data from our beef, lamb and pork suppliers, and 
  4. Developed and launched our Woolworths Group-wide Animal Welfare Policy.

We will continue to embed our welfare outcome measures programme out to the rest of our fresh supply base this year to include poultry meat, layer hens and dairy cows later in 2020.

Target Setting

Woolworths is constantly striving to improve farm animal welfare and health. We have recently updated our Group Animal Welfare Policy as well as business-specific policies for Woolworths Supermarkets, BIG W, and Countdown NZ. Other targets we have in place include: 

  1. By 2025, 100% of our ingredient egg in Own Brand products will be cage-free 
  2. By 2025, 100% of vendor brand whole shell eggs will be cage-free

Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare

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 2019, Woolworths was rated Tier 3 and we have an aspiration to achieve Tier 1.

Woolworths Fresh Poultry is 100% Australian

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 standards.

Woolworths RSPCA Approved Chicken

100% of Woolworths Own Brand fresh chicken and ingredient chicken in Woolworths Own Brand products comes from RSPCA Approved farms2.  The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme focused 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 grow according to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards and are provided with environmental enrichment, good quality litter 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 enjoy good lighting which encourages them to be active, 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 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 half year.

RSPCA Approved Standards are publicly available to download here

Our Woolworths Own Brand RSPCA Approved chicken is grown to:

  • 28kg per m2 stocking density for non-mechanically ventilated systems. 
  • 34kg per m2 stocking density for tunnel, extractive or other mechanically ventilated systems.

Woolworths has made a commitment that all our ingredient chicken within Woolworths products will be RSPCA Approved by December 2020.  In April 2020 we achieved this target.  All our products which contain RSPCA Approved chicken carry the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme logo.

“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 which 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.

Woolworths Turkey

In 2020, we have committed to sourcing all Woolworths brand fresh whole turkeys from RSPCA Approved farms in time for Christmas.

Woolworths Free Range Poultry (Chicken and Turkey)

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: 

  • Free access to the outdoors during daylight hours for fully feathered birds, 
  • Access to grass,
  • Natural trees for shade and protection from wind,
  • Dust bathing areas,
  • Foraging on native vegetation and scratching in the earth,
  • Lower stocking densities of up to 30kg/m2, and 
  • No growth-promoting antibiotics.

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

 

Woolworths Eggs

Eggs are a staple component of many Australians’ daily diets with 17 million eggs a day being consumed across the country.  At Woolworths, eggs are an important component of many of our customers’ shopping baskets. All Woolworths Own Brand eggs must be produced to the ESA (Egg Standards Australia) Level 3 for Farm and Grading Floors standard or equivalent, or higher. The ESA Level 3 - Comprehensive level covers the rearing of day-old chicks up to the packing of eggs to supply. Level 3 covers all aspects of production including hen welfare, egg quality, biosecurity, work health and safety, and environmental management.  The aspects of animal welfare which the standard covers include: ensuring employees handling the hens receive welfare training, providing ideal lighting and air quality, providing adequate food and water to the hens in a safe environment, provide enrichment such as perches and nesting boxes, maintaining a healthy stocking density, and daily monitoring of hen health and production.  As part of the standards producers also need to manage the behaviour of foul. Suppliers are assessed annually to ensure their compliance with  ESA Level 3.

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, so far 22% of Woolworths Own Brand products containing egg are cage-free. We are also committed to all supplier branded whole shell eggs being cage free by 2025 and we have seen a decline in caged egg sales since making this commitment.

At Woolworths, the Own Brand products we sell which are 100% cage-free are split between: 

  • Barn raised (maximum 30kg per m2)
  • Free Range and (10,000 birds per hectare) 
  • Organic (16kg per m2) in addition to ESA Level 3 our organic eggs are also produced to the ACO standard.

It is important to ensure that the hens have access to environmental enrichment so that they can express their natural behaviours such as dust bathing and foraging. 100% of our egg layer hens have access to enrichment.  All our hens are raised in barns that have the following environmental enrichment: perches, nesting boxes, scratching areas. In addition to these, all our free range and organic hens also have access to shade on the range.

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.

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.

 

 

Woolworths Beef, Lamb and Pork

All our beef, lamb and pork is sourced by our dedicated Woolworths expert Livestock Team. 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.

All our processing plants for beef, lamb and pork are independently certified annually by Australian Livestock Processing Industry Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS) as well as meeting our own Woolworths standards for our abattoirs. 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.

We have recently launched our Welfare Outcome Measure programme across beef, lamb and pork.  Our suppliers are required to supply monthly data across several welfare metrics and as we build this data we will publish our key metrics. 

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.

Beef

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.  Our organic beef range is free from artificially added growth promotants and free from antibiotics, the cattle are all organically fed. 

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”.

Pork

All our Woolworths fresh pork is Australian and independently audited to the Australian Pork Industry Quality (APIQ) standard, which means that 100% of our pork comes from systems that are certified gestation sow stall free.
The Woolworths Pork Blueprint is currently undergoing review. 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.

Free Range Pork

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.

Lamb

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.

Dairy Cows 

Our Farmers’ Own fresh milk comes from farms regionally across Australia. The Farmers Own initiative was started back 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.

The farms must meet all legislative requirements as well as any Woolworths specific requirements. Our Farmers’ Own dairy herd has no permanently housed cattle, or tie-stall systems and on average our cows have access to grass for 20 hours a day, 320 days of the 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 123 days across the group. 

More information on The Farmers Own Dairy Milk can be found here.

More information on Woolworths Drought relief milk can be found here.

Farmed Fish and other Aquaculture

Woolworths is proud to offer the largest seafood range of any Australian supermarket and has made pleasing progress this year in our key seafood categories, increasing the number of sustainably sourced products available to our customers.

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 preferred by Woolworths are:

  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

If these, are not commercially practical Woolworths will accept:

  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) 
  • GLOBALG.A.P. (GGN)

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.

Packaged and Frozen Seafood

26 out of 27 Woolworths Own Brand frozen, chilled and deli seafood products are now sustainably sourced or have been reformulated so that they only contain environmentally responsible raw material, and all new products must also meet our sourcing commitment.

Canned Seafood

By December 2020, 100% of canned seafood that meets our commitment will be offered.

Fresh Seafood 

We are pleased to report that currently, 94% of our seafood (by weight) is ecologically responsible.

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.

Investing in our animal welfare commitments

Innovation

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.  We will also input into independent standard reviews concerning  our sourcing requirements.   

Dairy Innovation Fund 

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 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.  

The Woolworths Animal Welfare Horizons Fund 

We have recently launched our Animal Welfare Horizons Fund. Its purpose is to help support research and development for suppliers to address welfare opportunities, challenges, projects, and initiatives. The fund will assist 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.  Its establishment will promote animal welfare downstream of the supply chain, benefiting our farmers and their animals directly.

Partnerships and Collaboration 

We have recently started 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. 

Data Collection and Welfare Outcomes Measures

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.

Data Recording of Welfare Metrics

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.

Animal Welfare Training

Woolworths Team Members

We see training our people a crucial part in 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.

Woolworths has trained the livestock purchasing team to AUS-MEAT Animal Welfare Certification System (AAWCS).  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 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. Recently 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.

Supplier Support

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 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. 

We regularly meet with suppliers to 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. 

Woolworths also holds a Sustainable Supplier of the Year Award which recognises excellence in the areas of animal welfare, sustainability, and human rights.

Communicating our messages to customers

Messaging on pack

All products produced to a certified / approved standard such RSPCA Approved will hold the certification logo on the pack to help customers identify welfare-friendly products.   The Discovery section of our Supermarkets website provides insights into our Sustainability initiatives including Animal Welfare. Where possible products are linked to more information such as our RSPCA Approved Chicken. All our customers can access via hard copy delivered to every store or online 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.

In-store

Several of our stores contain Point of Sale (POS) call outs to inform customers of responsible choices. This includes branding for RSPCA Approved Chicken. 

Catalogue 

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.​

Agricultural Scholarships and Shows

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.

Farmed animals for food and non-food

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.

Pet Accessories 

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.

Transport, Processing and Slaughter

Transport 

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 recently 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 for beef, lamb and pork. 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.

Pre-slaughter Stunning

All livestock sold under Woolworths Group Limited must have been humanely slaughtered. All beef, lamb, pork and poultry must be pre-slaughter stunned. 100% 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.

 
Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

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.

Husbandry Practices 

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.

 

Sector or species

Procedure

% Free of Mutilations

Meat Chickens (fresh & ingredient) Break Trimming 100%
Whole fresh Turkey Desnooding, Dewinging  & toe clipping 100%
Dairy cattle (Farmers’ Own Milk) Tail Docking 100%
Fresh Lamb Mulesing 100%
Organic and free range pigs Tail docking & teeth clipping 100%
Fresh pork - finisher pigs Teeth clipping & Surgical castration 100%
Farmed fin fish* Fin clipping 100%

*only farmed Australian fish

Close confinement 

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.

Species

Confinement

% Free from close confinement

Chicken Meat (Fresh and Ingredient) Cages 100%
Layer Hens (Whole Shell egg) Cages 100%
Layer Hens (Ingredient egg)* Cages 22%
Dairy Cows Tethering 100%
Fresh Pork Gestation Sow Stall Free 100%

*We are working towards removing cages in our own brand products containing ingredient egg by 2025.

Enrichment 

Woolworths Group believes that, to promote natural behaviour and positive mental experiences, environmental enrichment is to be provided to all animals in Own Brand supply chains. The following table shows 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.

Species

Enrichment

Behaviour

Proportion of Animals with Environmental Enrichment

Layer Hens (whole shell egg) Perches, nesting boxes, quality litter, scratching areas Pecking, nesting, perching, dust bathing, foraging, scratching 100%
Meat Chickens Perches, litter, pecking objects Pecking, perching, dust bathing, foraging, scratching 100%
Whole Turkeys Perches, pecking objects, litter Perching, dust bathing, foraging, scratching 100%
Pork Straw bedding material, enrichment blocks, nesting material Foraging and play 72%
Lamb/beef/dairy cattle Pasture Access Grazing May differ due to time of year or production method

 

Key Welfare Metrics (%)

Species

Measure

Proportion (%) of animals

Layer Hens Mortality rate ≤5.5%
Meat Chickens Broken Wings 2.9%
Footpad Lesions 8.6%
Hock lesions 2.3%
Breast Lesions 0%
Mortality rate 0.26%
Fresh Beef Injured during transport / unfit for transport 0.2%/0.006%
Secondary/ backup stun 0.03%
Mortality rate (DOAs) 0.06%
Slips/trips/falls

5.00%/5.35%/5.00%

Vocalisation 6.24%
Fresh Lamb Injured during transport / unfit for transport 0.0004%
Mortality rate  (DOAs) 0.25%
Lame or injured in lairage 0.0004%
Slips/trips/falls 0%/0.17%/0%
Vocalisation 0%
Fresh Pork Injured during transport/ unfit for transport 0.002%
Lame or injured in lairage 0%
Slips/trips/falls 0%/0%/0%
Vocalisation 1%
Mortality rate  (DOAs) 0.06%
Dairy (Farmers’ Own) Mastitis - The average treated cases of mastitis over the last 12 months for the group 10.8%
Lameness - Average lameness cases in the last 12 months for score 2 & 3 4.38%

This table relates to total average proportion (%) in relation to eligible livestock supplied to Woolworths in Australia for fresh. Median scores are reported for all measures. As we gather more information we will continue to report on our welfare metrics.

Woolworths Antimicrobial Stewardship Policy 

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

Woolworths 5 R’s Approach 

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:

Responsibility 

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.

Reduce

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

Refine

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.

Replace

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.

Review

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: sustainability@woolworths.com.au

 

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)

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