Australian supermarket giant Woolworths has cut ties with animal welfare benchmark group amidst national rising animal slaughter and meat production rates.

Woolworths announced this week (23 May) that they would be ending their goals to align with the ratings of the UK-based Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare ranking system – which ranks the world’s top 150 food companies on their welfare practices yearly – in light of their inclusion of new criteria that would rank companies on their reduction of the sale of animal proteins.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Beef Central that the changes to the UK benchmark system were no longer serving the values of the supermarket’s animal welfare missions.

“Following a review of changes that have been made to the BBFAW, we have made the decision to no longer aspire to its Tier 1 rating,” the spokesperson said.

“Unfortunately, the international benchmark fails to recognise the unique context of Australian farming, and the ways our farmers care for animals in a different climate and geography.”

The six-tier system of the BBFAW was introduced in 2011 and currently spans companies from 23 countries. They assess the companies based on their management commitments and policies, governance and management, leadership and innovation and performance measurement.

Woolworths made their debut on the list in 2015, and have since been placed in Tier 4 twice, Tier 3 on four occasions and reached their highest rank of a Tier 2 placement in 2020. A Tier One ranking views a company as having ‘taken a leadership position on farm animal welfare’ with an overall percentage score of over 80 per cent.

But despite the initiatives to reduce Australian meat consumption by the BBFAW, Australians are as hungry for meat as ever.

Data released by Meat and Livestock Australia in 2022 showed Australians are the 7th highest consumers of beef worldwide. Rates of overall per-person meat consumption have also risen by 13 per cent in Australia in the 20 years leading up to 2018. In that same year, Australians were consuming on average 110 kg of meat per person yearly according to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

(DATA SOURCE: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)

(DATA SOURCE: ABS 19/05/23)

Additionally, according to data released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the 2023 March quarter saw an increase of 13.5 per cent of cattle slaughtered to 1.7 million and beef production increased 11.3 per cent to 524,335 tonnes in the quarter. The combined total of all red meat production increased by 10 per cent in the last three months.

The production of pigs, lambs and chickens for meat also saw increases in the last quarter.

(DATA SOURCE: ABS 19/05/23)

(DATA SOURCE: ABS 19/05/23)

Woolworths is currently supplied with red meat from over 2500 farms across the country. Despite increased meat production and a recent scandal surrounding their sourcing of pork, Woolworths says animal welfare is a focus for them.

“Animal welfare is a crucial part of delivering quality Australian meat to our customers,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“We will continue to look to the expert guidance of scientists, animal welfare professionals, regulators and industry groups on this issue.”

Australia’s red meat and livestock industry’s turnover totalled $67.7 billion in FY2020-2021 by UOWTV

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