Over the past decade, major food companies have been committed to improving their animal welfare standards. A new bulletin from animal rights organization Mercy for Animals shows that some companies operating in Canada are making progress on their public commitments, but others are falling behind.

The advocacy organization Animal Welfare Scorecard in Canada ranked the top 55 food companies operating in Canada, focusing specifically on three contentious issues: confining laying hens to cages; confine pregnant pigs in gestation cages; and standards for how chickens should be raised and slaughtered, known as the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC). Chipotle, Whole Foods and Campbell’s were among the “gold tier” companies that have strong policies on all three issues and report publicly on their progress.

“This year, more companies are showing they are taking meaningful action to reduce animal suffering in their supply chains,” said PJ Nyman, spokesperson for Mercy for Animals. Corporate Knights, adding that it is a “good sign” that these companies are listening to growing consumer concerns about animal welfare. But there’s always more work to do when it comes to how some of the biggest food companies in Canada treat animals. The bottom tier of the report includes Moxies, Mary Brown’s, Co-op and Domino’s Pizza, none of which had a public animal welfare policy or report. Last year, Sysco, a large food retailer, was listed alone at the lowest tier, but it moved into the fourth tier of the report this year by committing to raising cage-free eggs and starting to report. of his progress.

The report shows that companies in Canada generally lag behind those operating in other parts of the world in some respects when it comes to animal welfare. The percentage of laying hens confined to cages (as reported by industry) in Canada, for example, was 83% last year, while the EU reported 45% and the UK 35%. Even the United States has done better on this front, with 71% of laying hens confined to cages.

There were also no Canadian retailers with public welfare policies regarding chickens raised for meat that aligned with the Better Chicken Commitment in 2021, while the EU had 42, the US United had 12 and the United Kingdom had four. BCC requires companies to have policies that give birds more space and enrichment than typical industry standards. It also indicates that birds should be stunned with CO2 gas prior to slaughter, rather than the common industry practice of electrified water bath stunning, which is considered inhumane by many welfare advocates .

“This country is falling behind on critical animal welfare issues, and we need food companies to step up and show they take animal welfare seriously and deliver on their promises to Canadians,” Nyman said.

Mercy for Animals ideally wants all food companies in Canada (and beyond) to make animal welfare a priority by including it in their corporate social responsibility policies. But the commitments are just the beginning, as Big Food needs to set deadlines and show it is making steady progress to make its supply chains a whole lot less cruel.