Animal Welfare - Doing the right thing
A&W is committed to working with farmers and animal welfare experts to ensure that animals in our supply chain are treated humanely throughout their lives. We are proud to maintain animal welfare standards that meet or exceed industry guidelines and continue to drive innovation in every aspect of our supply chain.
Doing the right thing is part of our corporate DNA. We also have a dedicated team of senior leaders who are responsible for working with suppliers and science experts to ensure that A&W meets our corporate commitment to animal welfare through the development and implementation of world class animal welfare standards, specifications and verification programs.
A&W has independently audited our suppliers for animal welfare since the 1990s. Today, we focus on actions we can take and improvements we can make immediately while keeping our eyes on the next steps in animal welfare.
Our Animal Welfare Principles
A&W is committed to the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by providing ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
- Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
Animal Welfare Leadership
A&W participates in various leadership initiatives such as the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), and the Global and Canadian Round Tables for Sustainable Beef. In addition, A&W has created an Animal Welfare Leadership Council of global experts to advise us on new science and practices in the field of animal welfare.
A&W has developed standards and requirements for animal welfare which focus on end of life management with aspects of animal husbandry, transportation and holding limitations. These standards are regularly revised and based on new scientific research and best practices including:
- National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes Of Practices
- Canadian Quality Assurance program and Animal Care Assessment of the Canadian Pork Council
- Animal Care Program of Chicken Farmers of Canada
- North American Meat Institute Guidelines
- Canadian and Global Round Tables on Sustainable Beef
- Other relevant international animal welfare standards including Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership
All A&W suppliers are audited annually by a qualified third party against our standards for animal welfare. All our auditors are certified by PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization).
We work with our suppliers and other industry and science experts to continuously improve practices that ensure animals in our supply chain are free from cruelty or abuse and are treated with respect.
We recognize that requirements for animal welfare evolve as new science and best practices emerge. As such, we will continue review and update our standards and practices through science based assessment, consultation with experts and our suppliers and evaluation of feasibility and time frames.
Our Chicken Welfare Standards
Our chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics. This means our farmers already have high standards of practice to ensure the health and welfare of their flocks. Our current standards for broiler chickens meet, exceed or are being evolved to implement even higher levels of animal welfare standards, including those covered in Global Animal Partnership.
Click here to see A&W’s media statement on chicken welfare.
Today, A&W works with farmers to ensure chickens are humanely raised in large barns with ample access to fresh air, food and water. Lighting, air quality and cleanliness are monitored and clean litter is provided for every flock.
New requirements beginning 2017:
- Introduction of physical enhancements that best allow for natural bird behaviour, while preserving an antibiotic-free environment.
- Ensure a minimum of six hours of darkness in the barn so chickens can rest better at night.
Litter - We ensure our chickens are provided with deep litter, that is changed after every flock, and monitored for moisture regularly.
Air quality - We require monitoring of ammonia levels in the barn and action is taken if it’s more than 20ppm.
Enrichments - Our requirements for physical enhancements align with current GAP standards.
Lighting - We have made an immediate change to require 6 hours of darkness. This change was made in accordance with Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council’s recommendations. We will continue to assess our lighting intensity requirements as new science emerges, and as always, update our standards accordingly.
A flock health care plan and qualified veterinary care is currently required at each of A&W’s supplier farms to maintain flock health, which is actively monitored.
A&W uses breeds of birds that can thrive in the barns with optimal health. These birds are raised to a weight best for maintaining mobility and leg and foot health. The company understands that the University of Guelph is undertaking a study to determine whether there may be breeds of chickens better suited for Canadian farms. A&W looks forward to the results of this study.
Bird Breeds - All of our farms currently meet the GAP specified outcomes for animal welfare including weight and leg health. We are committed to transition to strains of birds bred for measurably improved welfare outcomes when they become available.
Free-Run with Room to Roam
Today, all of A&W’s farmers work to ensure that the birds have ample room to roam, with the majority of barns operating at a density well below the industry requirement, providing lots of space to range.
New requirement beginning 2017:
A&W will ensure that all farmers maintain barn density levels that meet or exceed the standard set out in the Global Animal Partnership Step Level 2 and the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes of Practice.
Stocking Density - All chicken farmers in Canada are required to meet the stocking density standards set out by Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council. The majority of A&W’s farmers exceed those requirements with 80% of our barns at or below 25kg/m2. In the small percentage of our barns that are over 30kg/m2, we have committed to stocking density equal to or better than the requirements set out by current GAP Step Level 2.
A&W currently has stringent standards for the humane handling of birds for euthanasia and has already begun working with its suppliers to adopt Controlled Atmosphere Stunning. This process reduces the individual handling of the birds. The company has committed to a complete conversion to this enhanced method as quickly as possible and no later than the end of 2022.
Third Party Verification
All A&W suppliers are currently required to have annual third party audits by qualified Professional Animal Auditors to ensure compliance to A&W’s standards.