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Animal welfare

Updated July 2017

We are determined to be the best in our sector with regard to the production of sustainable, quality livestock, grown to the high welfare standards which our customers expect.

As a Group we have a defined animal welfare policy, agreed with the Board, and implemented and managed by our Group Agriculture team.

Our Animal Welfare Policy:

We are committed to driving up animal welfare standards within the business and our suppliers based on the five  freedoms as defined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.

  • Freedom from hunger & thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from disease and injury
  • Freedom to display normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear

To deliver this market leading standard, we will source from a supply base which is committed to high welfare standards in its production system and which is wholly accredited to an independently audited welfare scheme, thus delivering both legal compliance and basic good farming practice. 

High welfare, safe meat can only be produced through the implementation of rigorous standards and the training and attitude of staff is recognised as a key driver in delivering this. 2 Sisters Food Group is committed to ensuring all staff are adequately trained and supported in the delivery of these standards.  

Through the use of sound science the Group will develop a production system for broiler chicken, beef and lamb which optimises the welfare of the animal, is economically and environmentally sustainable for the farmer while maintaining and improving product quality for the customer.

This Policy will be reviewed and as science develops it will be integrated where it further enhances the goal of high welfare, sustainable quality livestock production. Equally, it will support the development of animal welfare legislation by active participation in industry working parties and forums that are aimed at UK, EU and even world-wide welfare requirements.

The principles identified in general good farming practice and the latest scientific and legislative developments will be incorporated into our farming standards which will be used to drive forwards standards and which will form the basis of our own internal auditing system. This will be reviewed on a regular basis to support our market-leading position.

We are proud of our animal welfare standards across all aspects of the supply chain from farms, through transportation and at slaughter. We adhere to, and exceed many regulatory standards within the food sector, and are constantly looking at ways to improve our standards even further. We regularly meet with animal welfare organisations, industry bodies, farm assurance providers and retailers to share knowledge and best practice in this area.

Poultry standards

We grow a number of different types of chicken to meet our customer requirements, from indoor to organic production.

Indoor birds

All our standard birds are grown to Red Tractor Standards, which is a national farm assurance scheme, which involves annual independent audits across all our farms to verify compliance.  The scheme sets minimum standards around stocking density, biosecurity and all aspects of broiler productions.

At 2 Sisters, we have also produced our own code of practice, which sets standards beyond those required by the red tractor scheme.  These include provision of windows in all houses supplying us, to give the birds natural light, as well as provision of bales and pecking objects for all chickens.   All three combined are known as ‘environmental enrichment’ which helps to encourage and stimulate a bird’s natural behaviour as it would in the wild. Natural behaviour we like to see is is ‘dust bathing’, pecking at objects and ‘dashing & sparring’.

In addition to these standard birds, we also produde two other types of indoor bird:

Higher welfare birds

We grow a flock of birds which are produced at a lower stocking density (giving them more space) and a specialised diet (with maize and pure vegetable oils), which is known to improve succulence and flavour of the birds.

 

 

 

Freedom Food indoor

We work with a large number of growers in the south west to produce indoor birds which meet the standards set by the RSPCA. These birds are a slow growing breed, produced with more space, and additional environmental enrichment, such as green vegetable and CD’s. These farms are inspected and certified by the RSPCA annually.

Free Range

All farms are Red Tractor approved, and /or RSPCA Freedom Food approved. We use a slow growing breed of chicken for our Free-range production, and they are free to roam inside and outside their sheds during daylight hours, once they have developed their feathers (from 28 days of age as a minimum). They have the same environmental enrichment standards as our standard birds. We have a range of house types, from static small houses, some with verrandahs and also some small mobile houses. Our farmers have planted trees and installed bird shelters to help ensure the birds range as much as possible.  The birds prefer to be outside at dawn and dusk, and often return to the lunch for feed and a rest in the middle of the day!

We also produce corn fed chickens which have a special diet too, containing 50% Maize for 50% of the birds’ life. This gives the birds the charectoristic yellow colouring and a different flavour.

Organic

For organic birds, all sites must be independently audited and approved by one of the organic certification bodies.

Our favourite organic breeds are the Hubbard again or the Aviagen Rowan Ranger- both slow growing. The birds are grown to a minimum 70 days old and they are also free to roam inside and outside their sheds. They have all the environmental enrichment you’d expect, like our standard and free range birds, but they also must comply with the DEFRA Compendium of Organic Standards (or equivalent) as a minimum.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cattle and sheep standards

We work with over 8,000 farmers in England, Scotland and Wales to provide cattle and sheep to the highest standards.  We have worked with many of them for over 20 years, and offer supply contracts as well as a team of field staff who can help them select the right animals and offer advice on other aspects of production.

Standard beef and lamb

All the beef cattle and lambs that we sell come from red tractor approved farms; Just like in poultry the scheme sets minimum standards which all our farmers adhere to, and they are independently audited to ensure compliance.

We also set our own standards which go beyond this scheme. These include residency on a maximum number of farms in the animals lifetime (thus reducing the stress of movement), purchasing direct from our farmers (rather than from livestock markets) as well as strict limits of journey times in line with recommended welfare standards.

Organic beef and lamb

We also produce organic beef and lamb which comes from farms certified by one of the organic bodies.  They follow strict standards which govern use of antibiotics, as well as prohibiting the use of any fertilisers or non-organic feed.

Aberdeen Angus beef

We also sell Aberdeen Angus beef, which comes from red tractor approved farms.  The cattle are all sired by Pedigree registered Aberdeen Angus bulls, and produced on a grass based diet.  We use DNA testing, as well as rigorous documentation checking to verify that they are all sired by an Aberdeen Angus bull.

 

Animal feed ingredient sustainability 

Policy Statement:

The 2 Sisters Food Group aims to use only those ingredients in its animal feed that are considered to be responsibly sourced. We will deliver this commitment on the basis of encouraging our suppliers to purchase from sources which are recognised as being responsibly produced and where these do not exist working with industry and other interested parties to develop these sources.

 Background:

Animal feed may contain a wide range of ingredients to ensure that the health of the animal it is fed to is maximised. The “recipe” used in specific feeds will change at different times depending on availability and quality of the raw materials. However some of the key ingredients which are used have, in the past, been linked to issues of sustainability such as destruction of rain forests in South America and Asia and overfishing. The key ingredients used in animal feed for which there may be a sustainability concern are soya and its derivatives, fish meal and oil, and palm oil. The 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG) will use feed suppliers who produce feed in line with responsible production standards including:

  • Protection of valuable ecosystems
  • Prevention of deforestation or overfishing
  • Protection of water resources
  • Compliance with labour laws, local environmental legislation and land title
  • Good agricultural and fishing practices

The 2 Sisters Food Group through our Dutch operation is a member of the Round Table on Responsible Soya. 2SFG aims to use suppliers who source their soya from members of a recognised responsible sourcing scheme following the guidelines laid down by FEMAS, such as CRS, Pro Terra and RTRS.

For palm oil, 2SFG is a member of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and aims to encourage the use of RSPO certified palm oil in all feed used in livestock being killed at 2SFG.

2SFG is committed when fishmeal or fish oil is used in animal feed, to ensuring that it is sourced responsibly from managed fisheries (or those with fisheries improvement programmes). To this end we will work with bodies such as the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, the Marine Stewardship Council or Seafish to identify these fisheries and suppliers.

Clones in the supply chain

Policy Statement:

2 Sisters Food Group do not accept meat from cloned animals or their 1st generation offspring into the products they produce.

Background:

Our strict livestock procurement policy prohibits the procurement of animals which have been cloned. We work proactively with our producers to ensure that every effort is made to prevent the food from the offspring of clones entering the food chain.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has indicated that the marketing of meat and milk from the progeny of clones is legal, however the 

marketing of meat from cloned animals themselves is illegal. Foods produced from cloned animals fall under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 (the 'Novel Foods Regulation'). This means that meat, milk or eggs from cloned animals would be subjected to a safety evaluation and approved by all European Union (EU) member states as a novel food before they could be marketed leg

ally. The Food Standards Agency is the UK body responsible for the assessment of novel foods and it will not assess the safety of using cloned animals and their offspring 

in the food chain unless it is asked to do so.

 The Agency is aware that the use of cloned animals in the food chain has been examined by the authorities in the US, which announced in January 2008 tha

t edible products from cloned cattle, pigs and goats are as safe as their conventional counterparts. As a result, some US producers could start to use cloned animals or, more likely, the offspring of cloned animals. A question about cloning is therefore included in producer audits to ensure that they are excluded from the supply chain. 


Livestock procurement

Policy Statement:

2 Sisters Food Group is committed to ensuring that the livestock it purchases is from suppliers who are committed to high standards of animal welfare.

Background:

Farm assurance standards in the U.K. were brought in by industry and retailers in the early ‘90s to address what was felt as a lack of control in meat production. From the early very basic standards they have grown to be world leading addressing not just the everyday job but pushing the boundaries forward to a more proactive approach such as biosecurity and animal health planning for disease prevention. They provide clear guidance to the farmer of what is required to produce good quality, healthy and legal animals. They now the base on which retailers base their own specific requirements.

The 2 Sisters Food Group is committed to purchasing all its livestock direct from farm assured farms for cattle and chickens. For lamb a small amount may be purchased from markets but these will still be farm assured and 2SFG is committed to reducing this volume year on year. This direct purchase allows auditing to be done to ensure that the expected standards are met, particularly where these are in addition to the base farm assurance ones, plus give feedback on performance and health to farmers to allow them to better manage their production. It also allows education of the supply base on how to improve their production efficiency and on the risk of upcoming challenges. 

Live transport of animals

Policy Statement:

2 Sisters Food Group is committed to ensuring the transport of live animals is done in a humane manner which minimises stress in the animals thereby maintaining good animal welfare and product quality. This commitment will be delivered by purchasing from suppliers within a reasonable distance to the abattoir so they are as short as possible, ensuring that the transport itself is fit for the species and that animals are transported at the appropriate stocking level for the species and environmental conditions.

Background:

Live animal transport has traditionally been an area of public concern largely in the area of transport times. Our strict livestock procurement policy tries to ensure that wherever possible all livestock is bought from farms in the same area as the abattoir and with the exception of a small number of lambs, are transported direct from farm to the abattoir. While legally animals can be transported/held for up to 12 hours before food and water need to be provided, 2SFG endeavour to transport animals for no more than 8 hours from first animal loaded to last animal killed (except where cattle or lambs are brought specifically in for lairaging in which case food and water will be provided).

All transport of live animals must be done by trained people who have knowledge of the potential issues which can arise. Regular audits of transporters ensures that transporters are adequately trained and the transport, of whatever size, is checked to ensure that it is suitable for transportation of live animals in relation to type, fitness to transport animals and adjustments made for varying environmental conditions. Additionally monitoring of the stocking density of the transport ensures that animals are able to provide mutual support to each other but are not crowded to a level where they do not have room to stretch and move.

 

0 - 3 hrs (%)

3 - 6 hrs (%)

6 - 8 hrs (%)

Chicken

9.00

81.00

10.00

Beef

56

20

24

varies from 30 to 95%

 

 

Lamb

13

40

47

 

 varies 13 to 60%

 

 

NB the travel time will vary depending on the factory, the time of year and availability of supply. The above figures are therefore averages based on the last 6 months.
 

 

Slaughter

Policy Statement:

2 Sisters Food Group is committed to ensuring that all animals killed in its abattoirs are stunned prior to slaughter and are killed in a humane manner appropriate for the species.

 Background:

The 2 Sisters Food Group tries to ensure that the principles of “the Five Freedoms” and specifically “Freedom from fear and distress” are considered in the design and management of the stun and slaughter processes in our abattoirs.

 Rigorous staff training programmes and regular internal checks and audits of the stun/slaughter process ensure that staff and equipment found currently in our abattoirs are working to optimise animal welfare and quality. This includes the actual stun/kill equipment as well as the animal delivery systems which lead into the stun equipment.

 In addition regular reviews both internally and with acknowledged experts to optimise current systems are undertaken to ensure that 2SFG is a leader in ensuring animal welfare at kill. New technologies are investigated to ensure that where improvements can be made their suitability is reviewed and if possible implemented.

 

Everything else?…frequently asked questions

 Q. How do we ensure that our farm animal welfare policy is effectively implemented?

2SFG has a risk based audit programme carried out by trained auditors which looks at animal welfare in in our factories and in our farms to ensure compliance with 2SFG and customer codes of practice.  In addition to these audits, our area management teams in poultry, and independent auditors carry out inspections of our farms.  We use outcome measure data plus previous audit results to ensure these audits are well targeted- and that support programmes are put in place for lower ranking farms.

 Q. Is the company currently investing in projects dedicated to advancing farm animal welfare practices within the industry?

2SFG has an extensive research programme operating across beef, lamb and chicken.  The current projects include:

1. Appropriate enrichment for broiler chickens: an evaluation of litter substrates, as well as other environmental enrichments, such as bales, perches etc.

2. Calf rearing systems: extensive research into improving the conditions in which dairy calves are reared with a view to reducing antibiotic usage and mortality, as well as improving lifetime performance.

3. Nutrition: various nutrition trials looking to improve the welfare outcome measures of broiler chickens through improved gut health

4. Water cleanliness in poultry: evaluation of a number of water treatments for drinking systems to improve water cleanliness and improve gut integrity

5. Alternatives to antibiotics: a number of trials across species to evaluate alternative products- and systems- to reduce antibiotic usage

Q. Has the company received any notable awards or accreditations for its farm welfare performance in the last 2 years?

The company has received awards from several retailers in the last year for its work on innovation (antibiotics), its contribution to the rural community and to the future of farming.

In addition representatives from our growing partners have been asked to speak at international conferences about the work being done with antibiotic reduction.

Q. Does the company promote higher farm animal welfare to consumers through education and/or awareness-raising activities?

2SFG have hosted a number of farm events where we have grown all ‘types’ of broiler production on a single site, so that we can show customers, and other interested parties (e.g. CIWF, NFU etc.) the differences between production systems.  We also participate widely in Open Farm Sunday, with a view to allowing consumers access to farms with all different production systems.

Q. What proportion of broiler chickens for own-brand fresh/frozen products and ingredients in the company’s global supply chain is reared at lower stocking densities (specifically, 33 kg/m2 or less)?

Approximately 15% of the 2SFG supply chain is grown at less than 34kg/m2.  We also have significant numbers of chickens grown without thinning- this leads to much lower placement levels, which is as significant in terms of space as terminal stocking density.

Q. Does the company report on welfare outcome measures (i.e. measures linked to the physical, emotional and/or behavioural wellbeing of animals)?

2SFG produce a full suite of outcome measures monthly which are shared with our customers.  We also produce benchmarked reports for our farmers, so they can see how they perform against their peers.

Q. Does the company report on the average, typical or maximum permitted live transport times for the animals in its global supply chain?

This information is available to our customers and a summary can be seen in the table below:

 

0 - 3 hrs (%)

3 - 6 hrs (%)

6 - 8 hrs (%)

Chicken

9.00

81.00

10.00

Beef

56

20

24

varies from 30 to 95%

 

 

Lamb

13

40

47

 

 varies 13 to 60%

 

 

NB the travel time will vary depending on the factory, the time of year and availability of supply. The above figures are therefore averages based on the last 6 months.

Q. Does the company report on the proportion of animals in its global supply chain that are free from routine mutilations (i.e. castration, teeth clipping, tail docking, toe clipping, dehorning, desnooding, de-winging, disbudding, mulesing, beak trimming, fin clipping)?

The majority of cattle that the company slaughter are castrated and disbudded as calves, in line with the wider UK industry and in full compliance with UK welfare legislation.  Through our own calf scheme we encourage the use of polled sires which eliminates the need for disbudding.

The majority of lambs are tail docked, to reduce the risk of fly strike, and again in accordance with UK welfare legislation.

There are no mutilations carried out to broiler chickens.

 Q. Does the company assure its welfare scheme to a prescribed standard?

2SFG have our own codes of practice which in some areas are set above the base line of red tractor. All farms are Red Tractor approved (and the relevant organic approval, where appropriate). In addition some farms may be approved to Freedom Foods standards.

Q. Does the company report on its performance against its animal welfare policy and objectives?

We set internal targets for all outcome measures and monitor ourselves based on performance.  We also have individual targets in place with the majority of our retail customers and they receive monthly KPI reports.