SÃO PAULO—Food and hospitality companies across South America agree farm animal welfare is a core part of any responsible sourcing or sustainability policy, especially during the current pandemic. This message was a recurring theme at last week’s Humane Society International virtual “From Commitment to Action” workshop about farm animal welfare in South America.
Attendees included companies from several different sectors and five different countries, including retailers, restaurant chains, hotel chains and baked goods manufacturers, among others. These companies joined food and egg producers, scientists, investors, animal welfare specialists and policy makers to discuss ongoing efforts to promote the production of eggs and pork using systems that do not confine chickens and pigs to tight, immobilizing cages.
The three-day roundtable examined three key issues: the why and how of adopting a commitment to cage- or crate-free sourcing; opportunities and challenges for suppliers seeking to meet this new demand; and growing support for the cage- and crate-free movement, as evidenced by new financing approaches, supportive policies and consumer demand.
For over 10 years, Humane Society International has worked closely with companies, suppliers and policy makers to support higher animal welfare standards in supply chains across the region.
As Maria Fernanda Martin, corporate policy and program manager for HSI Farm Animals in Brazil, observed: “Every day we work with forward-thinking companies to support their implementation of animal welfare policies, to identify opportunities for collaboration and to share of lessons among various stakeholders. HSI is committed to providing companies and suppliers with all the tools and technical resources they need to make a cage-free future for laying hens and a crate-free future for sows a reality. And we embrace new companies that want to join this movement. This year, we celebrated cage-free commitments from over a dozen companies; next year we expect to see even more progress as the cage- and crate-free movement continues to spread.”
Barilla, which won the Henry Spira Corporate Progress Award from Humane Society of the United States for transitioning its supply chain to 100% cage-free eggs a year earlier than planned, shared the key reasons and the ‘how-to’ on achieving its cage-free commitment early.
Fabiana Araujo, Barilla’s marketing manager, said: “With the support of the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation, we understand and carry out actions that seek the balance between a nutritionally balanced diet and less environmental impact. The implementation of cage-free eggs is an important step in respect for consumers and the environment, and we are grateful to all the associations and production chains that supported us in this process. We hope that more companies can be part this movement, increasing the consumer awareness about better animal conditions. Animal welfare is an urgent matter and needs to be on the leadership agenda.”
Arcos Dorados, Carrefour Argentina, and AB Brasil, among other companies, reaffirmed that their reputations and ability to maintain consumer trust depend in part on strong animal welfare policies.
According to Yamila Scollo, Sustainability and Social Responsibility Manager for Carrefour Argentina: “Carrefour`s sustainability policy is aligned with new consumer`s trends. Under the challenge of leading the food transition, we have initiated a road that strengthen the commitment to offer our clients products that come from production systems with focus on environment care and animal welfare. We have conformed an interdisciplinary team over areas that foster animal welfare issues, designing concrete action plans, with key stakeholders’ advice”. In addition, Ricardo Huber, responsible for the development of Natural Print brand and fresh organic products in Argentina said: “We aim to develop even more our Natural Print Brand, which is a product line that focus on animal welfare, environmental respect and biodiversity protection, including zero deforestation and the preservation of native ecosystems. We are working to enlarge the diversity of producers and suppliers expanding good practices, like we have done with our cage free eggs. In a way, conventional producers adapt and transform their production systems to a more sustainable one”.
Vitor Oliveira, head of Egg Business in AB Brasil also stated: “To participate in events like this gives us the chance to effectively contribute to the debate on the balance of the production system, the preservation of life and environmental stability. As egg processors, we are an intermediate link, essential to the egg-products’ production chain and, in the position we are, it is rewarding to see that we are advancing with responsibility and planning to expand the dissemination of a new culture capable of combining respect for the human and animal lives and human prosperity with viable actions.”
Grupo Mantiqueira, South America’s largest egg producer, shared its journey toward cage-free production, its new commitment to no longer investing in new cage facilities and the importance of close and ongoing communication with companies and consumers.
Leandro Pinto, president and founder of the group stated: “We are building a sustainable company, reinventing ourselves and anticipating what the next generations will ask for. And for the sake of quality and transparency, we are committed to not building any new conventional cage facilities, and also to making large investments in cage-free farms so that, by 2025, we will have 2.5 million laying hens in this system. We believe that Mantiqueira will revolutionize the Brazilian poultry farming with that decision. Consumers are increasingly aware of the origin of their food, and we want to participate in the values that are being demanded. We want our purpose to focus on animal welfare to democratize and make the consumption of cage-free eggs accessible to all the people.”
In South America and around the world, egg-laying hens spend their entire lives confined in wire battery cages that are so small that the hens cannot even fully spread their wings. Science confirms what common sense tells us: the lack of space and restriction of movement is detrimental to the physical health of these animals and causes enormous frustration and suffering.
Mother pigs are also confined in gestation crates.
However, advocates for better animal welfare are making enormous progress in South America. Over 100 food and hospitality companies in the region have committed to sourcing exclusively cage-free eggs by 2025 or earlier. The future is cage- and crate-free, and South America is leading the way.
Media contact: Maria Fernanda: firstname.lastname@example.org; +55 (11) 9 5770 9922