Friday, May 22, 2015

Walmart Announces Policies on Animal Welfare and Antibiotic Use in Livestock Production

On May 22, Walmart announced its new policy on animal welfare and antibiotic use, Walmart U.S. Announces New Animal Welfare and Antibiotics Positions:  Company Outlines Expectations for Suppliers to Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S., as Part of Commitment to Sustainable Supply Chain.

As the world's largest food retailer, Walmart often sets the standards for the supply chain. This has been cast in terms of lowering the bar for production standards as a means of lowering costs. Sometimes, however, as in this case, Walmart can also decide to raise the bar.

The announcement includes Walmart's support for the "globally recognized 'Five Freedoms' of animal welfare." For example, included in the announcement is a call to suppliers to "[f]ind and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns in housing systems. . . "

The announcement also takes on the pervasive use of antimicrobials in livestock and poultry production. It supports the elimination of the "growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics" and calls for "limiting antimicrobial treatment to animals that are ill or at risk."

Admittedly, "at risk" can be interpreted to allow for much of the current use of antimicrobials in the livestock and poultry industries, as low levels of antibiotics are used to "prevent" disease in crowded conditions.  It is a first step, however.

And, the announcement also calls for public reporting on "antibiotic use on an annual basis."  This would seem to indicate support for the FDA's recent proposal to gather data on antibiotic use on a species basis.  Current reporting is only available to FDA by overall industry sales, and it is generic in terms of use. Greater transparency could have a significant impact on the market.

In sharp contrast to the "ag gag" laws in some states, the notice uses the term "transparency" seven times in the one page announcement.

This is the latest word from Walmart on its Commitment to a Sustainable Food System. Last October, Walmart announced this commitment, noting that food is its "biggest product category." It announced its four pillars of commitment:

1) Affordable: Continuing to reduce the “true cost” of food.

2) Accessible: Fighting hunger by providing for those in need.

3) Healthier: Making eating healthy easier.

4) Safe and Transparent: Showing consumers where food comes from.

It will be interesting to see how seriously Walmart takes these commitments, how much pressure they put on their livestock and poultry suppliers, and what timeframe they have in mind.  Currently, many suppliers are a long way from these goals.  But, they should be on notice.


Anonymous Sumit Sharma said...

Thanks to Wallmart, The decision is beneficial for human health. Trust of consumers will increase with the decision.

7/01/2015 9:07 AM  

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