The agreement means that the hundreds of thousands of farms that supply Nestlé with its dairy, meat, poultry and eggs will have to comply with tighter animal welfare standards, said the firm.
The Swiss headquartered manufacturing giant, which has a global purchasing footprint, is the first major food company to form an international partnership on animal welfare issues.
Nestlé has some 7,300 suppliers from whom it buys animal-derived products directly - everything from milk for its range of yoghurts and ice-creams, to meat for its chilled foods and eggs for its fresh pastry and pasta. However, each of these suppliers, in turn, buys from others, meaning that Nestlé’s Responsible Sourcing Guidelines apply to hundreds of thousands of farms around the world.
“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,” commented Nestlé's manager of responsible sourcing, Benjamin Ware.
Mike Baker, chief executive of World Animal Protection added that the NGO's 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.”
Nestlé has already worked with World Animal Protection to specifically tighten and improve its Responsible Sourcing Guideline, which all suppliers must adhere to as part of the Nestlé Supplier Code. Both of these build upon the Nestlé Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare, said Nestlé in a press release.
For example, after working with World Animal Protection these documents and guidelines now include spacing requirements for the rearing pens of certain species of animal like pigs and cows, to ensure they are not cramped and can engage in normal animal behaviour. In addition, following the involvement of World Animal Protection, Nestlé’s guidelines also seek to minimise pain for farm animals by using veterinary practices that reduce pain, or avoiding the practices in the first place by different animal husbandry practices.
Nestlé also confirmed that it has commissioned an independent auditor, SGS, to carry out checks to ensure the new standards of animal welfare are met on its supplying farms.
It said that several hundred farm assessments have already been carried out worldwide - with some of these checks also attended, unannounced, by World Animal Protection representatives whose role is to verify the auditors.
"When a violation is identified, Nestlé will work with the supplier to improve the treatment of farm animals to ensure they meet the required standards," said Nestlé. "If, despite engagement and guidance from Nestlé, the company is unable or unwilling to show improvement, it will no longer supply Nestlé."