Progressive Grocer

SEP 2016

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106 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | September 2016 Feature Animal Welfare major supermarket chains (Publix was the last to jump on the bandwagon, in July) and many minor U.S. grocers promising to go cage-free within the next decade. While all farm- ers and grocers offered cage-free eggs many decades ago, far fewer continued to do so as a growing population drove strong demand, explains Kevin Burkum, SVP at the Park Ridge, Ill.-based American Egg Board. (Recent studies also suggest a higher hen mortality rate in cage- free environments.) Luckily, technology has improved, since using 1960 technology to pro- duce the 2010 egg supply would have required 78 million more hens, 1.3 million more acres of corn and 1.8 million more acres of soybeans. Today's technology, which serves a U.S. population 72 percent larger than it was 50 years ago, has enabled farmers to meet egg demands with just 18 percent more hens, while also leaving a smaller environ- mental footprint, and providing safe, nutritious feed while maintaining the best care for their hens. In the coming years, however, farmers will have to keep up with technological advancements to meet even stronger cage-free-egg demand down the line as the hen population continues to rise. Taking the First Steps Of course, these issues are just a sampling of the many expected to exist in the near future, and grocers and suppliers alike will need to ramp up their efforts in support of more humane treatment of meat-, egg- and dairy-producing animals. It's surprising, however, that many today still don't have strong animal welfare policies, even though consumers increasingly are seeking meat from more responsibly raised sources, says Jeff Tripician, general manager at Oakland, Calif.-based meat processor Niman Ranch. Typically, the reason for this issue is supply limitations. To combat the supply issue going forward, grocers should start planning ahead via long- term, broad relationships with suppliers, secur- ing supply and providing them with a market for humanely raised meat. According to Tripician, these retailers are seek- ing to partner particularly with suppliers boast- ing a long history of animal welfare — ones who can prove it through such methods as adhering to animal-raising protocols developed by Dr. Temple Grandin, a leading animal welfare expert; obtaining a letter of support from the Humane Society of the United States; and earning third-party certification through Certified Humane. Additionally, he says, it's critical for grocers to review their own policies, ensuring that they have a robust animal welfare policy dictating that the prod- ucts they sell come from animals that were allowed the widely accepted Five Freedoms, a core concept in animal welfare that originated in a U.K. government report in 1965 and was refined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress. Grocers keen on adhering to these standards should compare their supply chain practices with each freedom, asking themselves such questions as: How many suppliers are still using cages for egg-laying hens or crating gestating and mother sows? How many are engaging in tail docking of dairy cattle, or allowing intense crowding of ani- mals? What suppliers have public animal welfare policies and standards, and third-party audits? Asking these questions and taking the appropri- ate steps toward better animal treatment ultimately can lead to increased sales. "Seventy-five percent of surveyed consumers want their stores to carry a greater variety of welfare- certified meat, eggs and dairy products," ASPCA's Roulston affirms. "Sixty-seven percent of consumers would purchase these products even when it means a modest increase in price. Taking steps to protect farm animals from suffering doesn't just make ethi- cal sense — it also makes business sense." PG A move to adopt welfare certifications will address not only the welfare concerns, but also the inevitable calls for transparency." —Nancy Roulston, ASPCA

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