Eighty global food companies were ranked in the report, now in its third year, representing food retailers and wholesalers, restaurants and bars, and food producers and manufacturers.
Companies are measured on their approach to managing farm animal welfare in three areas: management commitment and policy, governance and policy interpretation, and leadership and innovation. They are then ranked from Tier 1, where companies are taking a leadership position, to Tier 6, where animal welfare does not appear on their business agenda.
Cranswick rose up the ranks two places, to achieve a Tier 2 ranking, alongside McDonald’s.
Tyson Foods, Vion and Nestlé, retained their Tier 3 ranking. JBS, appearing in the report for the first time, was also ranked in Tier 3, while Marfrig dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 3. BRF, Danish Crown, Hillshire Brands, Cargill and WH Group also featured in Tier 4.
However according to the report, compiled in collaboration with animal welfare organisations, Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection, around half of the companies assessed in 2014 appeared in the bottom two tiers. This included 2 Sisters Food Group and Burger King who featured in Tier 6.
It said that food safety scandals such as the horsemeat scandal have forced companies to look more closely at issues such as provenance, traceability and quality, as well as becoming more transparent in the management of their supply chain. However key welfare issues, for example close confinement and long distance live transportation, remain under-reported, the report stated.
Mike Baker, chief executive at World Animal Protection, said: "Consumers increasingly care about where their food comes from and are demanding a better life for farm animals. While it is encouraging to see a growing number of companies in this year’s Benchmark with stated commitments to animal welfare, there is clearly still much room for improvement."
Programme director Nicky Amos said it was encouraging to see that 84% of the companies covered in the assessment acknowledged that animal welfare was a business issue, with 64% publishing farm animal welfare policies.
Despite this the report illustrated that many companies in the food industry are either not managing the "systemic risk" of animal welfare or not properly reporting it, said Rory Sullivan, expert advisor to the BBFAW.
"We are particularly concerned that most of the companies in Tier 6 and Tier 5 do not appear to have taken action to improve their management of farm animal welfare-related risks and opportunities, nor have they signalled that they intend to do so," he added.