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Animal welfare

Updated May 2015

We are determined to be the best in our sector with regard to the production of sustainable, quality livestock, grown to the high welfare standards which our customers expect.

As a Group we have a defined animal welfare policy, agreed with the Board, and implemented and managed by our Group Agriculture team.

 

Our Animal Welfare Policy:

We are committed to driving up animal welfare standards within the business and our suppliers based on the five  freedoms as defined by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.

  • Freedom from hunger & thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from disease and injury
  • Freedom to display normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear

To deliver this market leading standard, we will source from a supply base which is committed to high welfare standards in its production system and which is wholly accredited to an independently audited welfare scheme, thus delivering both legal compliance and basic good farming practice. 

High welfare, safe meat can only be produced through the implementation of rigorous standards and the training and attitude of staff is recognised as a key driver in delivering this. 2 Sisters Food Group is committed to ensuring all staff are adequately trained and supported in the delivery of these standards.  

Through the use of sound science the Group will develop a production system for broiler chicken, beef and lamb which optimises the welfare of the animal, is economically and environmentally sustainable for the farmer while maintaining and improving product quality for the customer.

This Policy will be reviewed and as science develops it will be integrated where it further enhances the goal of high welfare, sustainable quality livestock production. Equally, it will support the development of animal welfare legislation by active participation in industry working parties and forums that are aimed at UK, EU and even world-wide welfare requirements.

The principles identified in general good farming practice and the latest scientific and legislative developments will be incorporated into our farming standards which will be used to drive forwards standards and which will form the basis of our own internal auditing system. This will be reviewed on a regular basis to support our market-leading position.

We are proud of our animal welfare standards across all aspects of the supply chain from farms, through transportation and at slaughter. We adhere to, and exceed many regulatory standards within the food sector, and are constantly looking at ways to improve our standards even further. We regularly meet with animal welfare organisations, industry bodies, farm assurance providers and retailers to share knowledge and best practice in this area.

Poultry standards

We grow a number of different types of chicken to meet our customer requirements, from indoor to organic production.

Indoor birds

All our standard birds are grown to Red Tractor Standards, which is a national farm assurance scheme, which involves annual independent audits across all our farms to verify compliance.  The scheme sets minimum standards around stocking density, biosecurity and all aspects of broiler productions.

At 2 Sisters, we have also produced our own code of practice, which sets standards beyond those required by the red tractor scheme.  These include provision of windows in all houses supplying us, to give the birds natural light, as well as provision of bales and pecking objects for all chickens.   All three combined are known as ‘environmental enrichment’ which helps to encourage and stimulate a bird’s natural behaviour as it would in the wild. Natural behaviour we like to see is is ‘dust bathing’, pecking at objects and ‘dashing & sparring’.

In addition to these standard birds, we also produde two other types of indoor bird:

Higher welfare birds

We grow a flock of birds which are produced at a lower stocking density (giving them more space) and a specialised diet (with maize and pure vegetable oils), which is known to improve succulence and flavour of the birds.

Freedom Food indoor

We work with a large number of growers in the south west to produce indoor birds which meet the standards set by the RSPCA. These birds are a slow growing breed, produced with more space, and additional environmental enrichment, such as green vegetable and CD’s. These farms are inspected and certified by the RSPCA annually.

 

 

Free Range

All farms are Red Tractor approved, and /or RSPCA Freedom Food approved. We use a slow growing breed of chicken for our Free-range production, and they are free to roam inside and outside their sheds during daylight hours, once they have developed their feathers (from 28 days of age as a minimum). They have the same environmental enrichment standards as our standard birds. We have a range of house types, from static small houses, some with verrandahs and also some small mobile houses. Our farmers have planted trees and installed bird shelters to help ensure the birds range as much as possible.  The birds prefer to be outside at dawn and dusk, and often return to the lunch for feed and a rest in the middle of the day!

We also produce corn fed chickens which have a special diet too, containing 50% Maize for 50% of the birds’ life. This gives the birds the charectoristic yellow colouring and a different flavour.

Organic

For organic birds, all sites must be independently audited and approved by one of the organic certification bodies. Our favourite organic breeds are the Hubbard again or the Aviagen Rowan Ranger- both slow growing. The birds are grown to a minimum 70 days old and they are also free to roam inside and outside their sheds. They have all the environmental enrichment you’d expect, like our standard and free range birds, but they also must comply with the DEFRA Compendium of Organic Standards (or equivalent) as a minimum.

 

 

Cattle and sheep standards

We work with over 8,000 farmers in England, Scotland and Wales to provide cattle and sheep to the highest standards.  We have worked with many of them for over 20 years, and offer supply contracts as well as a team of field staff who can help them select the right animals and offer advice on other aspects of production.

Standard beef and lamb

All the beef cattle and lambs that we sell come from red tractor approved farms; Just like in poultry the scheme sets minimum standards which all our farmers adhere to, and they are independently audited to ensure compliance.

We also set our own standards which go beyond this scheme. These include residency on a maximum number of farms in the animals lifetime (thus reducing the stress of movement), purchasing direct from our farmers (rather than from livestock markets) as well as strict limits of journey times in line with recommended welfare standards.

Organic beef and lamb

We also produce organic beef and lamb which comes from farms certified by one of the organic bodies.  They follow strict standards which govern use of antibiotics, as well as prohibiting the use of any fertilisers or non-organic feed.

Aberdeen Angus beef

We also sell Aberdeen Angus beef, which comes from red tractor approved farms.  The cattle are all sired by Pedigree registered Aberdeen Angus bulls, and produced on a grass based diet.  We use DNA testing, as well as rigorous documentation checking to verify that they are all sired by an Aberdeen Angus bull.

Processing and transport standards

As well as making sure that the animals and birds are looked after during their lives on farm, we have set strict standards around transport and processing.  These include maximum transport times of 8 hours across all species, well built and maintained lairages (where animals are held prior to processing) and ensuring that every animal is stunned (rendered insensible to pain) prior to slaughter.  We have invested in the latest gas killing for poultry across all sites, as well as Jarvis kill boxes across all our red meat sites, ensuring beef cattle and stunned and killed instantly.  We have trained Animal Welfare officers in all our sites and they are responsible for ensuring our high standards are always met, and that improvements are constantly made to our systems.

We carry out our own unannounced and announced across all our abattoirs and have installed CCTV so we can monitor and verify compliance.