Dairy enzyme market boosted by demand for specialised products

Continued demand from cheese and yoghurt manufacturers, coupled with a desire to promote digestive health, promises a slew of opportunities in the dairy enzyme market, according to a new study.

Global market intelligence company Fact.MR anticipates the global demand for dairy enzymes will surpass 270,000 tonnes in 2026, which is likely to translate into a market opportunity of more than $1.3 billion.

Use of dairy enzymes has offered potential opportunities in terms of growth prospects for participants involved in dairy enzyme development, as these products add new texture, flavour, freshness and reduced bitterness.

Dairy enzymes also facilitate convenient ultra-high temperature processing.

READ: Shift in rankings of companies listed in Rabobank Global Dairy Top 20

Lactose intolerance is a main aspect pushing development of advanced dairy enzymes, Fact.MR reports.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that about 68 per cent of world’s population faces lactose intolerance.

The increasing number of lactose intolerant individuals has fuelled the demand for lactose free-dairy products – not only milk but also other dairy products such as yoghurts and cheese.

Increasing demand for lactose free-dairy products has pushed enzyme manufacturers to develop novel solutions to meet consumer requirements.

A relatively high value share has also been envisioned for cheese with respect to adoption of dairy enzymes in cheese production.

Several microbes such as Irpex, Rhizomucor Pusillus and Aspergillus Oryzae are being extensively used for production of rennet during cheese manufacturing

Cheese manufacturers have accelerated the curdling process using lactic acid, rennet and plant based enzymes, especially from fig leaves, wild artichokes, melons or safflowers.

In addition, the growth in sales of dairy enzymes for cheese production is complemented with the increasing consumption of cheese across the globe, which resulted in sales of more than $150 million in dairy enzymes in 2017, which was higher than any other application area.


Strong focus on salmon welfare lands Huon Aquaculture with RSPCA approval

Huon Aquaculture is the first seafood producer in Australia to join the RSPCA’s approved farming scheme for its focus on fish welfare.

Huon Aquaculture executive director Frances Bender said fish welfare had always been essential to every aspect of what the company did.

“After a lot of extremely hard work by all of our people and as Australia’s first RSPCA approved salmon farmer, we are proud to be leading the way in farming salmon safely, sustainably and with a strong focus on welfare,” said Bender.

“Being able to supply Australia’s only range of RSPCA approved salmon means that consumers that care and want the best for themselves and their families can now do that with confidence by choosing Huon,” she said.

READ: Nutritional quality of fish and squid reduced by warm water events

“Achieving this accreditation hasn’t happened overnight—we have worked closely with the RSPCA approved farming scheme over many years to meet their high standards and it is something that everyone working for Huon has been instrumental in achieving,” said Bender.

RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil said with a growing number of Australians including fish in their diets, it was important that consumers had the opportunity to choose a product that was raised to a high standard of animal welfare.

“It’s a good outcome for millions of fish and consumers wanting to make a more humane choice,” said Niel.

The scheme is the RSPCA’s farm assurance program dedicated to improving the welfare of as many farm animals as possible by working with farmers to provide an environment that better meets the animal’s behavioural needs.

Recently, animal welfare standards for farmed Atlantic salmon were added to the scheme and focuses on meeting the fish’s physical and behavioural needs.

The standards require people managing fish, to be trained, that handling of fish is carried out in a manner that is low stress, and that management practices limit any negative impacts on the fish.

The standards aim to ensure that fish be held in water of good quality and that farming practices aim to provide all fish with sufficient oxygen and feed, freedom from injury, stress, deformation or disease, and the ability to exhibit normal swimming and schooling behaviour.


Nestlé joins Global Coalition to advance animal welfare standards

Nestlé and six other food companies have joined forces, through the Global Coalition for Animal Welfare, to advance welfare standards throughout the global food supply chain.

The global coalition is an industry-led collaboration uniting major companies and animal welfare experts to work towards improving standard for animals.

Other companies in the coalition include Unilever, Ikea Food Services, Aramark, Compass Group, Elior Group and Sodexo.

Nestlé hopes to accelerate the development of standards and progress on key welfare issues.

The global coalition aims to publish a collective action agenda in the first half of 2019, focusing on five priority work streams, including cage free policies and improved broiler chicken welfare.

READ: Nestlé pledges to use only certified sustainable palm oil within five years

In 2017, Nestlé announced that it will only source cage free eggs for all its food products globally by 2025.

Ensuring decent farm animal welfare standard in the company’s supply chain us a key focus.

Nestlé’s half-year results have also been released. The results show increased momentum in the United States and China, as well as in infant nutrition.

There has been an organic growth of 2.8 per cent.

Total sales increased by 2.3 per cent, to 43.9 billion Swiss Francs (CHF), compared to the previous half-yearly results.

Earnings per share increased by 21.4 per cent to CHF 1.92 on a reported basis.

Free cash flow increased by 52 per cent, from CHF 1.9 billion to CHF 2.9 billion.

Nestlé CEO said Mark Schneider said the first half results confirmed that Nestlé’s strategic initiatives and rigorous execution were paying off.

“Nestlé has maintained the encouraging organic revenue growth momentum we saw at the beginning of the year. In particular, the United States and China markets showed a meaningful improvement. We were also pleased by the enhanced organic growth in our core infant nutrition category,” he said.

Looking towards the second half of 2018, there would be further improvement in organic revenue growth, he said.

“Margin improvement is expected to accelerate with further benefits from our efficiency programs and more favorable commodity pricing,” said Schneider.


Nestlé to go cage egg free

Nestlé,​ ​the​ ​world’s​ ​largest​ ​food​ ​company, has​ ​announced​ ​its​ ​commitment​ ​to​ ​eliminate​ ​cages​ ​from​ ​its​ ​egg​ ​supply​ ​chain​ ​worldwide.​ ​This policy​ ​will​ be adopted in 189 countries, including Australia, and will improve the lives of tens of millions of hens.

The multinational food giant sells everything from cereal to baby food. This new policy to phase out cage eggs will affect Nestlé products in Australia that include Lean Cuisine, Nesquik and KitKat.

Animals Australia said the​ ​commitment​ ​is​ ​a major​ ​step​​ ​toward​ sparing all hens from life in a​ ​cage​ ​across​ ​the​ ​global​ ​egg​ ​industry.

“We commend ​Nestlé’s​ ​ground-breaking​ ​animal​ ​welfare​ ​policy. As the largest food company in the world, this decision is a signal to the rest of the food industry that cage eggs don’t have a future,”​ ​said​ Jesse Marks, Animals Australia Director of Farmed Animal Advocacy.​ ​

“Australian consumers are concerned about the cruelty egg-laying hens suffer in cages, with a recent Roy Morgan poll showing that 67 per cent of Australians are more likely to support a company that has a policy not to use or sell cage eggs. This decision by Nestlé demonstrates how leaders in the corporate sector can listen to their customers and respond.”

Nestlé’s commitment comes just a week after a similar decision from the largest global hotel chain, Wyndham Hotel Group, which operates 26 hotels and resorts across Australia and 8,100 hotels globally.

Nestlé and Wyndham Hotel Group now join the growing number of major companies in Australia, and globally, that are cutting cage eggs from their supply chain – including, Subway, McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks, Woolworths, Aldi, McCain, Arnott’s, Hilton, and many others.

These​ ​ policies followed negotiations with​ ​members​ ​of​ ​​the Open​ ​Wing​ ​Alliance​,​ ​a​ ​global​ ​coalition​ ​of​ ​animal​ ​protection organisations,​ including Animals Australia​.  Both commitments will result in a complete phase out of cage eggs in Australia by 2025.

Taste trumps animal welfare for free range egg consumers

Australian consumers who buy free range eggs are more likely to do so because they believe the eggs taste good than because they are concerned about animal welfare, according to new research.

In a paper published today in the international journal Anthrozoös, researchers from the University of Adelaide’s Food Values Research Group have found that taste and quality of eggs rank high in people’s considerations for purchasing eggs with ethical production claims.

To better understand the reasons why people make ethical food choices, researchers conducted interviews at shopping malls and ran focus groups to find out about their food purchasing habits.

“People who said they bought free-range eggs readily told us that they thought the eggs were of better quality, more nutritious, and safer to eat,” says lead author Dr Heather Bray, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Humanities.

“Consumers saw free-range as more ‘natural’ for the chickens – so the eggs were ‘naturally’ better.

“These findings are in many ways unexpected, because we thought that the welfare of chickens would be the first reason people would give for purchasing free-range eggs,” Dr Bray says.

Despite some participants describing caged-egg production as “cruel”, they did not tend to emphasise welfare reasons as critical for their purchase of free-range eggs. Instead, participants felt that the free-range chickens were “happier”, ate a more “natural” diet, and thus produced a better quality of product.

“These findings help us to better understand the complex issues involved in making ethical food choices,” Dr Bray says.

“Our research suggests that consumers are more likely to purchase a food product if it’s both ‘ethical’ and viewed as being of better quality, rather than for ethical reasons alone. Consumers think about animal welfare in a much broader context – they believe that better welfare is connected to a better product.”

The study also revealed high levels of awareness among participants of caged-egg production compared with other types of animal farming. Participants were more likely to buy free-range or cage-free eggs compared with meat that is marketed as being produced ethically, in part because the price difference is much smaller in eggs.

“Taste and quality are strong motivations for purchasing and may be part of the reason why people are prepared to pay a higher price,” Dr Bray says.

The researchers say more studies are needed to better understand consumer motivations behind purchasing products with ethical production claims, in order to explore whether changes in production methods or labelling would be supported by consumers.


NZ’s Ewing Poultry eggs get animal welfare approval

Ewing Poultry, a farm south of Nelson, is the latest to become SPCA Blue Tick approved for its free range and barn eggs sold throughout New Zealand.

According to SPCA Blue Tick Business Unit Manager Ségolène de Fontenay, this is good news for consumers who will now have an even wider variety of high welfare approved eggs to choose from.

“We are excited to welcome Ewing Poultry, they’ve received SPCA Blue Tick approval on their free range and barn eggs by meeting our stringent high animal welfare standards. Consumers can buy these eggs with assurance that the hens are well looked after,” said de Fontenay.

Lloyd and Gwen Ewing established Ewing Poultry in 1981. In 2004 they saw growing demand for free range eggs and started their high animal welfare journey by changing their method of producing eggs from caged to free range.

The SPCA Blue Tick’s high animal welfare standards fit well with our farming philosophy and we support our customers’ awareness of knowing and caring how their food is farmed, says Ewing Poultry General Manager Paul Ewing.

“Our priority is to the welfare of our hens and our ongoing commitment is to give them the best conditions possible and providing our customers with high quality, tasty eggs” says Paul Ewing

“By moving forward to a sustainable future we researched European standards for free range and barn systems and we found within New Zealand the SPCA Blue Tick® is in keeping with the high EU standards and our own philosophy of high animal welfare standards,” he concludes.

Consumers can choose from a variety of high welfare approved eggs including Sungold Organic free range, Golden Downs Organic free range, Doug’s free range, Quail Valley free range, Sungold barn/cage free and Ewing barn/cage free.

Australian Beef Sustainability Framework released for comment


The Red Meat Advisory Council has made available the draft Australian Beef Sustainability Framework for industry comment.

The draft Australian Beef Sustainability Framework (the draft Framework) focusses on fostering longevity and prosperity for producers and consumers alike for the 18-billion-dollar Australian beef sector.

Independent Chair of the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC), Don Mackay, said the draft Framework was the culmination of extensive consultation.

“The draft Framework has been developed following discussions with industry, retailers, regulators, financial organisations, special interest groups and customers.”

“We now want all members of the beef value chain – from producers to consumers – to help us define what sustainable Australian beef means; and how we measure and report this to the wider community,” Mackay said.

The draft Framework focusses on four key themes with priority areas for industry to tackle progress: Environmental Stewardship, Economic Resilience, People & the Community, Animal Welfare.

The draft Framework supports priorities in the Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020, which focus on improving transparency, aligning practices with community expectations and building trust in the red meat sector.

“We wish to paint a clear and honest picture of sustainable beef in Australia and how we are responding to changing demands within the community to position our industry for the future,” said Mackay.

The development of the draft Framework has been led by RMAC’s Sustainability Steering Group (SSG), an 11-person grass roots industry group from across all industry sectors.

SSG Chair Prue Bondfield said the draft Framework addresses priority areas throughout the beef value chain, covering farm production, lot-feeding, processing and live exports.

“We have identified key priority areas and potential measures. It’s now open to the industry and the community to comment on whether the areas identified to date are the right ones,” said Bondfield.

“The framework will be used to help guide continual improvement by industry, so it’s critical that we have the right priority areas.”

The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework inaugural report is due to be released in March 2017.

New ISO specification for better management of animal welfare worldwide

Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs. The farming of animals is no longer just seen as a means of food production but as an ethical concern.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals and the well-being of farmed animals is strongly associated with the quality, and even the safety, of food. As consumer awareness of animal welfare issues continues to rise, the demand for products complying with animal welfare standards is growing, giving producers who maintain these high standards a competitive advantage.

Likewise, the food industry is taking more action to better implement animal welfare management. The new ISO technical specification ISO/TS 34700:2016, Animal welfare management – General requirements and guidance for organizations in the food supply chain, will help the food and feed industry to develop an animal welfare plan that is aligned with the principles of the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code (TAHC)* and ensure the welfare of farm animals across the supply chain.

ISO/TS 34700 represents the culmination of a joint effort between ISO and the OIE following the cooperation agreement signed in 2011 between the two organizations. The new technical specification is intended to support the implementation of relevant practices to ensure animal welfare in livestock production systems. It will be a way for business operators in the food supply chain to demonstrate their commitment to animal welfare management.

“The first beneficiaries of ISO/TS 34700 will be the business operators of the animal production food chain, including animal farmers, livestock transport companies and slaughterhouses,” says Dr François Gary, Convenor of working group ISO/TC 34/WG 16 that developed the document. “By creating a common vocabulary and a common approach to animal welfare management, this ISO technical specification will improve the needed dialogue between suppliers and customers within the food supply chain, especially between primary production and processing operators. This will be a business-to-business tool.”

ISO/TS 34700 will serve as a helpful tool for the private sector and competent authorities alike to clear up discrepancies in the regulatory framework, especially in developing countries facilitating public-private partnerships for animal welfare policy.

During the development of ISO/TS 34700, special attention was paid to the needs of small companies that make up most of the business operators involved in the animal food supply chain (family farms, small transport companies, small slaughterhouses…). But the document will also act as an international reference for companies involved in the trade of animal products.

Other parties, such as retailers, consumers and NGOs with an interest in animal welfare protection, will be indirect beneficiaries of ISO/TS 34700 as business operators begin to demonstrate their appreciation and commitment for animal health and welfare.

“The ISO technical specification will provide an important framework supporting the implementation of the OIE’s international standards for animal welfare around the world,” says Dr Monique Eloit, Director General of the OIE. “Consistent implementation of humane and ethical rearing conditions for animals provides certainty for farmers and producers, and confidence for consumers.”

The members of SSAFE, a non-profit membership-driven organisation that aims to foster continuous improvement and global acceptance of internationally recognised food protection systems and standards through public-private partnerships, supported the development of the technical specification.

“SSAFE supports ISO/TS 34700 for animal welfare as it provides a practical tool for promoting good animal welfare practices for food-producing animals based on OIE principles, and encourages all stakeholders across the food supply chain to observe the OIE animal welfare standards in relation to trade in foods of animal origin,” says Theodora Morille-Hinds, President of SSAFE.

The working group in charge of developing the technical specification brings together more than 130 experts from all regions of the world, with strong participation from developing countries and a broad range of stakeholders (private sectors, competent authorities, NGOs…), providing a representative balance in the search for consensus.

As with all ISO technical specifications, ISO/TS 34700 will undergo its normal systematic review in three years’ time and feedback will need to be organised.

ISO/TS 34700:2016 was developed by ISO working group ISO/TC 34/WG 16, whose secretariat is held by AFNOR, the ISO member for France. It can be purchased from your national ISO member or though the ISO Store.

Farm animal welfare push for NZ consumers

New Zealand consumers concerned for the welfare of animals involved in the production of their food are encouraged to pledge to ‘go SPCA Blue Tick’ to show their support for high animal welfare.

SPCA Blue Tick high animal welfare standards go beyond, often meaningless marketing terms such as ‘free range’ or ‘free to roam’ which is not regulated and just a style of farming with no assurance of high animal welfare.

The SPCA Blue Tick standards are a set of guidelines based on scientific evidence, best practice farming methods and international benchmarking. Compiled and administered by the SPCA, it offers consumers high animal welfare assurance on eggs, chicken, pork and turkey products, as SPCA Blue Tick is the only animal welfare accreditation in New Zealand independent from food and farming industries.

SPCA Blue Tick approved farms are independently audited by third party auditors, trained by the SPCA to the stringent standards set out by Dr Arnja Dale, SPCA Chief Scientific Officer with the input of other animal welfare experts after consultation with farmers.

According to Ségolène de Fontenay, Business Unit Manager of the SPCA Blue Tick, the pledge is designed to spread the word about the availability of a better standard for animal welfare.

“Consumers today are also taking a greater interest in the quality and the provenance of the food they eat – and they are sharing their mindful choices through social media in addition to the traditional ‘word of mouth’. With this pledge, we’re encouraging consumers to engage with their online networks to better understand what SPCA Blue Tick is about.”

Each week one of the three brand new educative videos will be released that explains the purpose and mission of the SPCA Blue Tick and watching these is recommended before taking the SPCA Blue Tick pledge.

Sharing is encouraged, with each pledge given discount vouchers for SPCA Blue Tick products ‘as a token of appreciation for the commitment’ and a chance to win a dining experience hosted by renowned chef and SPCA Blue Tick goodwill ambassador Ray McVinnie.

The more people that get behind high animal welfare standards of the SPCA Blue Tick, the greater impact our charity has to changing societal perceptions and treatment of animals, said de Fontenay.


Choice launches free range egg app

Consumer group CHOICE has launched an app which provides consumers with an ‘augmented reality’ view of the various living conditions of birds categorised as ‘free range’.

The app comes in the wake of Consumer Affairs Ministers’ decision last week to sign off on a national standard for free-range eggs that has no requirement for hens to ever actually go outside and allows free-range eggs to be produced by hens stocked at up to 10,000 birds per hectare – more than six times the current voluntary limit of 1,500.

“With Augmented Reality on your phone or tablet we now have the power to make labels tell the truth, even when government won’t require it,” said CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

“With the new ‘free-range’ rules clearly reflecting the commercial interests of the big industrialised egg producers over consumers, we had to intervene in this market to make up for the failing of Consumer Affairs Ministers.

“The app gives power back to consumers, helping them navigate the free-range egg market. By scanning a free-range egg carton, consumers can quickly see which eggs live up to the ‘free-range’ claim.

According to CHOICE, at a minimum, a standard for free-range eggs should require that eggs labelled ‘free-range’ are produced in farms where chickens actually go outside and have a maximum outdoor stocking density of 1,500 hens per hectare.

CHOICE claims that 213 million eggs were sold as free-range in 2014 that didn’t meet consumers’ expectations.


Sunny Queen Farms commits to lower hen density for free range eggs

Sunny Queen Farms brand has committed to an outdoor hen density of no more than 1500 hens per hectare in their free range egg farms across Australia.

The move means that the brand will comply with the hen density range recommended bythe Model Code of Practice, a document produced by the Primary Industries Standing Committee and published by the CSIRO.

According to the company, the move will make Sunny Queen Farms the only major free range brand that can claim an outdoor density of 1500 hens per hectare.

As Choice points out, several smaller free range egg producers do meet the Model Code of Practice, with some having outdoor hen density of as low as 7 per hectare. However, many producers claiming to be free range have hen density of up to 10,000.

Free Range eggs account for almost 41 per cent share of total eggs in supermarkets, however Sunny Queen Australia MD John O’Hara said consumers may not be getting what they think they are buying.

“There have been a lot of conflicting opinions around different densities and definitions for Free Range. Consumers want more clarity so they know what they are buying,” he said.

O’Hara added that hens at Sunny Queen have access to the outdoors for at least 8 hours a day where they can forage and roam freely.

“We give consumers access to a live webcam at the farms so they can see first-hand the chooks roaming around outside – we call it our Chooktracker,’ he said.

City fringes locked in battles over broiler farms

Once upon a time, chicken was a luxury few could regularly afford. It was a rare meal reserved for special occasions. Yet since 1965 the per-capita annual consumption of chicken meat in Australia has increased ten-fold from 4.6 kilograms per person in 1965 to 44.6 kilograms in 2012.

The retail price of chicken per kilogram has decreased steadily in real terms from around A$9.67 in 1986 to A$5.67 in 2009. The arrival of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Australia in 1968coincided with rapid increases in consumption. Today, Australians consume more than 600 million chickens per year.

The vast majority is produced in intensive “broiler” farms. How does chicken production and consumption on such a scale affect the foodbowls on the outskirts of our cities?

Australians consume over 600 million chickens each year, with the price of chicken having fallen steadily since the 1960s. Andrew Butt

Intensive chicken farms need to be within about one hour of processing sites. Farms also need to be close to feed supplies and hatcheries, as they are run as highly integrated systems.

Partly because of this, the chicken meat industry in Victoria is concentrated within about 200 kilometres of Melbourne. Similar patterns occur in other Australian regions.

As the industry has sought efficiencies of scale, the size of farms has increased. Whereas farms of the 1970s might have housed 10,000 chickens, they now routinely hold 80,000 to more than one million chickens, producing five batches of chickens per year. Yet as producers have grown, the numbers of suitable urban fringe spaces – close enough to processing plants, but far enough from neighbours and sensitive land uses – are dwindling.

One reason is the growth in popularity of peri-urban areas to live in. “Counter-urbanisation” or “tree-changing” has been underway since the 1970s. Whether in Germany, the US or the Netherlands, it seems rural and peri-urban residents have little desire to live near a “monster chicken factory”.

In a recent paper we analysed 59 planning appeals related to broiler farms in Victoria between 1969 and 2013. Concerns about the farms have included odour, noise, dust, vermin, truck traffic, impacts on tourism, and water use and pollution.

Broiler farm planning disputes appear to channel more intractable issues than odour control. It is possible that, on some level, having one million chickens not smell is unsettling in its own way.

As more chicken meat is produced, and in ever more technologically intensive ways, conflicts over farm applications inevitably unlock community disquiet about factory farming. The allowable forum for legitimate opposition, however, is narrow.

Intensive farming is often simply inconsistent with community expectations. The “unknowns” of industrialised agriculture are normally hidden from view in bucolic images on food packaging, and in the marketing of rural real estate as a “lifestyle” choice. Responses to the reality of broiler proposals – however technically well planned – sometimes seem rooted in the loss of this comforting, romanticised view.


In Victoria, the solution has been to regulate away the noise, smell and dust of a farm, mandate separation distances and even set aside areas with clear “rights to farm” and those with rights to “the good life”. The recent announcement of an inquiry in Victoria into the industry has a strong focus on resolving conflicts through siting and separation.

Yet the use of such an approach in Victoria has raised concerns about creating “sterilised” regions where no uses but industrial farms are permitted. Opponents to industrial farms also express concerns that proponents exploit loopholes and that a codified buffer distance privileges intensive farms rather than resolving conflicting land use issues.

On the other hand, less control arguably generates more conflict, as in parts of Canada and Texas. There, industrial, corporate-run farming operations dominate vast, generally lower socioeconomic areas. But as farms expand, divisive neighbourhood battles are still fought out.

Our research indicates that the use of buffer spaces around farms, guidelines and rights can achieve only so much. Despite the presence of clear guidelines, a recent proposal for a 1.2 million-bird farm in Baringhup, near Castlemaine, has led to more than two years of planning dispute and may result in Supreme Court action.

Conflicts between opponents and proponents of intensive farming will continue in rural areas. Fanning the flames is the growing demand for low-priced chicken (and an ongoing chicken nugget price “war”).

Local governments and decision-makers in Australia remain under-resourced to deal with opposition to the increasing scale of broiler farms. By advocating for a new understanding of what a rural and an urban area “means”, planning is at the coal face for negotiating politically acceptable outcomes to such conflicts. Yet a look at the images used to market farm products reveals what an uphill struggle this is.

Elizabeth Taylor is Vice Chancellor's Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University.

Andrew Butt is Senior Lecturer in Community Planning and Development, La Trobe University.

Marco Amati is Associate Professor of International Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University.


This article first appeared in The Conversation.

The Conversation


Coles, Woolworths rank in middle of pack in global animal welfare report

Australia’s two major supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths have appeared for the first time in a global animal welfare report and ranked in the middle of the pack.

Now in its fourth year, the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) provides an annual review of how 90 of the world’s leading food companies are managing and reporting their farm animal welfare policies and practices.

As the ABC reports, the report ranked Woolworths as tier 4 and Coles (Wesfarmers) as tier 5 in terms of animal welfare. (Tier 1 includes the best performers, while tier 6 includes the worst performers).

The report is compiled in collaboration with animal welfare organisations Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection (WAP) and investment firm, Coller Capital.

"They [Woolworths and Coles] are making commitments on specific animal welfare issues but what we're looking to see is comprehensive animal welfare policies addressing all issues associated with their operations," WAP head of campaigns Nicola Beynon told the ABC.

The report relies on publically available information so rankings may be adversely affected by companies’ reporting of their policies and practices.

As BBFAW director Nicky Amos told the ABC, both Woolworths and Wesfarmers are addressing animal welfare issue but they need to clarify their policies.

Such clarity could well see them rank higher.

Overall, the report found that the companies surveyed are increasing the importance they attach to farm animal welfare.

For example 69 per cent of companies now have published farm animal welfare policies (compared to just 46 per cent in 2012); and 54 per cent of companies have published targets on farm animal welfare (up from 26 per cent in 2012).

Image: The Conversation.


Pork CRC set to sow animal welfare advances

Australian Pork (Pork CRC) CEO Roger Campbell, says major progress and breakthroughs in pig and pork R&D were made across all four of the CRC’s programs.
“We’ve improved the welfare and performance of sows grouped in gestation, we’re developing alternative strategies to improve animal health, disease diagnostics and pork eating quality, plus advancing biogas management and grain inputs,” Dr Campbell said.
“Australia’s pork industry and researchers have led the world in transitioning from stall to group housing of gestating sows, with industry showing the forethought and courage to make the move and our scientists then making it work on a welfare basis for the sow and in terms of reproductive performance for the producer.”
Pork CRC scientists are now looking at satiety and enrichment for gestating sows and at the welfare and well being of sows and their piglets during farrowing and lactation.
“The latter remains a challenging area, but we have the best in world working on it and a very innovative program in place,” Dr Campbell said.
According to Melina Tensen, Senior Scientific Officer (Farm Animals), RSPCA Australia, Pork CRC’s R&D programs reflect an awareness of emerging issues and responsiveness to growing consumer expectations that may impact the industry.
“Pork CRC’s research is essential to the success of alternative farrowing and group housing systems and to farmer uptake of such systems,” Ms Tensen said.
“Undoubtedly, thanks to the success of the Pork CRC’s group-housing workshops, many pig farmers have implemented housing and feeding systems that best suit them and close to three quarters of gestating sows are now sow-stall free.
“The success of Pork CRC, in addition to the quality of the research, is attributable to the significant resources that major pig producing companies are willing to invest in order to achieve practical, on-farm improvements.
“This and the efforts of every single pig farmer who has transitioned or is still in the process of transitioning to group housing, should be highly commended.
“As Pork CRC’s work moves into the next stage, RSPCA remains committed to working with the pig industry and its stakeholders on the challenging journey towards high integrity Australian pork,” Ms Tensen said.
Dr Campbell said that in the next four years, Pork CRC would address areas across its four programs where gaps in knowledge still existed, while helping ensure Australia produces the highest quality pork in the world and that Pork CRC continues to help industry differentiate itself from the rest of the world.


Animal surveillance bill defeated in SA parliament

South Australian parliament has rejected a bid to pass the Surveillance Devices Bill.

Set up in a similar fashion to the North American AG-GAG legislation, the Surveillance Devices Bill had sought to prohibit the use of hidden surveillance and other recording devices in animal production facilities.

The move has been welcomed by animal welfare group Voiceless, who have been working to block the proposed legislation over the past year, the Weekly Times reports.

“Voiceless has been working hard over the last 12 months to fight the introduction of these dangerous laws which would hide the truth about how animals are raised on factory farms by silencing advocates and stifling transparency,” a statement from the group read.

“This is a win for consumer advocacy, workers’ rights, freedom of the press and, of course, animal protection.”

The decision in South Australia is in contrast to speculation that the Victorian government will be looking to strengthen measures against animal activists.

“The (Victorian) Government has been considering workable measures that can be introduced to give legitimate farming business protection against unlawful activism,” a spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh told The Weekly Times yesterday.

The Victorian government first committed to strengthen protection for farmers from trespassing animal activist groups in 2010. Walsh says that the election promise has not been forgotten and that the government will “have some more things to say around the right to farm”.


Senate condemns farm trespassers

The Senate has passed a motion condemning covert filming on farms by trespassers.

The motion was moved by Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and seconded by Western Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back, and the Greens were the only party to oppose the motion, ABC Rural reports.

Senator McKenzie says undercover operations by animal activists cause distress for farmers and animals.

"You don't destroy the car industry because a few drivers are doing the wrong thing," she said.

"If you have the evidence of cruelty, let courts take action, and that's precisely what this Senate agreed to occur yesterday."

Meanwhile, Senator Back is proposing a similar private senators bill which aims to ensure that animal cruelty is reported immediately to authorities.


Nestle announces global animal welfare commitment

Swiss food manufacturing giant, Nestle has announced a major pledge to improve the welfare of animals within its supply chain following the signing of a partnership with NGO, World Animal Protection.

The move will see hundreds of thousands of farms within Nestle's supply chain tighten their animal welfare standards to be in line with new guidelines which were developed in conjunction with World Animal Protection.

Nestle has around 7,300 suppliers from which it purchases a range of animal-derived products including milk, meat and eggs. Each of these suppliers, in turn, buy from others meaning that Nestle’s new animal welfare guidelines will apply to hundreds of thousands of farms around the globe.

"We know that our consumers care about the welfare of farm animals and we, as a company, are committed to ensuring the highest possible levels of farm animal welfare across our global supply chain,” said Benjamin Ware, Nestle’s manager of Responsible Sourcing.

Nestle’s new animal welfare guidelines will cover a host of issues including the specification of spacing requirements for the rearing pens of cows and pigs to ensure that they are not cramped. The guidelines will also minimise pain for farm animals by using veterinary practices that reduce pain, while some practices will be completely avoided in the first place by using different animal husbandry practices.

Nestle will be conducting audits of its suppliers via independent auditor SGS, to ensure that the new standards are met. When a violation is identified, Nestle will work with the suppliers to improve the treatment of farm animals and ensure that they meet the required standards. Should the supplier be either unable or unwilling to show improvement following guidance from Nestle, they will no longer supply the company.

“Our decision to work with Nestlé is based upon their clear commitment to improving animal welfare and the lasting change this can have on millions of farm animals around the world,” said Mike Baker, World Animal Protection Chief Executive.

The World Animal Protection agreement forms part of Nestlé’s broader Responsible Sourcing activities which  cover human rights, health and safety and environmental issues.


VIC to increase farmer protection against animal activists

Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh has said that he will be introducing legislation before the Victorian state election that will provide more protection for farmers against extreme animal rights activists.

The coalition first committed to strengthen protection for farmers from trespassing animal activist groups in 2010. Walsh says that the election promise has not been forgotten and that the government will “have some more things to say around the right to farm”.

“A commitment is over four years and we will be sure to do something,” Walsh told The Weekly Times.

Peter Tuohey, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation backed Walsh’s comments, stating that activists “don’t have the right” to trespass on private property and take photos in a "misleading manner".

Colin Giles, co-owner of a Gippsland abattoir has claimed that his family suffered immense financial and emotional hardship from a state government investigation into animal cruelty charges in 2011 which were subsequently dropped last year.

Giles and his former quality assurance manager, James Rodwell, were set to face a number of charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after footage was released which allegedly depicted cruelty towards pigs during slaughter. Giles said that the accusations bought severe stress to his family as well as lost revenue, production and the closure of his abattoir.

Tuohey says that Giles’ case was a “prime example of someone coming in under deceptive circumstances to cause some mischief,” and that stronger laws could have prevented the closure of the business.

In contrast, animal welfare company Animals Australia said that the introduction of strict legislation such as the ag-gag laws in the US will only heighten the awareness of cruel practices.

“If anything can be learned from the US situation, it is that while animal cruelty continues, so will investigations to expose that cruelty,” Animal Australia’s legal counsel Shatha Hamade told The Weekly Times.

“The controversy relating to ag-gag laws in the US has only served to increase consumer awareness of cruel practices, exactly the opposite of what US industries were seeking through having these laws put in place.”


Fire destroys $100k of livestock at a central QLD piggery

A piggery in central QLD has lost $100k of livestock in an early morning fire in a farrowing shed.

In Biloela, more than 60 sows and about 600 piglets died in the blaze, which was first reported to fire crews about 1:45am on Monday, The Morning Bulletin reports.

Australian Pork Limited's general manager of communications Emily Mackintosh said the fire had obliterated about one week's worth of production, however it was not expected to impact on the price of pork in the region.

"Any loss of a life of an animal in a fire is tragic," Mackintosh said. "There were no human injuries and they (staff) were able to get a lot of the rest of the pigs out before the fire took hold. You're not going to see an impact on pork prices."

Mackintosh said: "whilst it is under investigation, it isn't suspicious and potentially pointing to an electrical fault with one of the heat lamps."

Bettafields Piggery co-owner Laurie Brosnan said the toll could have been higher, had it not been for the fire starting in a complex set down for decommission.

"There was not many stock remaining in there at this point," he said. "Some (pigs) were saved; some have perished in the fire. It was a reasonably sized fire…we limited the damage as much as we could."

The fire was brought under control just before 3am yesterday.

Biloela Police officer in charge Senior Sergeant Nick Paton said a forensic investigation team would attend the scene; however the fire had not appeared to be suspicious.