McDonald's move to clean up its chicken supply chain 'should be part of an industry-wide effort' to tackle global health threat

Marks & Spencer’s head of agriculture called this week for “more industry collaboration” on animal welfare following McDonald’s announcement that it will phase out antibiotics that have an impact on human health in its chickens.

Tom Slay, agricultural manager at Marks & Spencer, made the comments after the fast food giant announced that it would begin curbing the use of antibiotics critically important to human health in its global chicken supply chain in 2018, a move that was praised by public health and consumer groups.  McDonald’s said it had ended the use of those antibiotics in its US market in 2016, and from 2018 will begin rolling the ban out throughout its worldwide operations. In the US alone, two million people a year become infected and 23,000 people die as a direct result of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. 

“I applaud McDonald’s in terms of what they’re doing but it’s an industry issue; we need to work together,” Slay said at the launch of The Business of Farm Animal Welfare, a book, edited by Nicky Amos and Rory Sullivan, that analyses current corporate practice on farm animal welfare.

Slay said that data collected from farm animals in supply chains should be used to “make an informed decision collectively on how we can manage the reduction [of antibiotics].” He stressed the importance of collaboration, saying that antibiotics is the “one issue” where there is no competitive advantage in working alone. “The benefit for the industry would be greater if it was everyone working together,” Slay said.

Philip Lymbery, chief executive at Compassion in World Farming, agreed: “Reductions in antibiotics need to be accompanied by a change in practice,” he said, adding that antibiotics were propping up an "essentially flawed system", and the industry needs to move to a system where antibiotics are not needed at all.

 Credit: MarclSchauer/Shutterstock Inc.

Marks & Spencer, which is in the top tier of companies for animal welfare in the annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, announced this week that it will become the first major retailer to source all of its fresh milk from RSPCA Assured dairy farms. The 37 farms, known as the M&S Milk Pool, are certified against RSPCA Assured standards, the highest animal welfare standards in the industry.  Slay said dairy farmers have been quick to grasp the importance of animal welfare. “Some of the best welfare changes we’ve seen is from dairy in the supply chain,” Slay said, adding: “The lives of the cows in our supply chain have improved from those outcome measures. So we need to take it step by step, case by case, and supply chain by supply chain.”

The Business of Farm Animal Welfare, published by Routledge, reviews the ethical and business case for improving animal welfare in supply chains, and includes case studies and analyses from Marks & Spencer, as well as Unilever, Aviva, and BNP Paribas.

The annual BBFAW survey shows how far the industry has to go to get to grips with this issue. Of the 99 companies covered by the 2016 Benchmark, 37% had published comprehensive farm animal welfare policies, and another 23% had published basic policy statements that provided limited information on commitments to key welfare issues or on how the policy statements would be implemented.

Waitrose and egg supplier Noble Foods are the other UK companies showing greatest industry leadership, according to the index, while McDonald’s, Co-Op, Tesco and Unilever, Greggs are in tier 2 of the six-tier ranking.  

animal welfare  Waitrose  McDonald's  agriculture  FMCG  Health  disease-resistance 

comments powered by Disqus