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Animal welfare is a broad term covering the general health, welfare and wellbeing of animals in our diverse farming systems. It covers all the elements associated with livestock production including housing, grazing, nutrition, disease prevention and control, transport right through to humane handling and slaughter. It means providing for the animal’s physical and mental needs and ensuring that every animal in our supply chains has a life worth living.

The UK is a recognised world leader in animal welfare. It drafted the first ever legislation on animal welfare nearly 200 years ago and established the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) – the world’s first animal welfare charity. In recent years animal welfare has also been rising up the global agenda, as a result of a number of factors including food scandals, tightening legislative requirements and investor concerns. Customers are also increasingly concerned about their health and are demanding information and reassurance on the origin and content of their food.   

As a food specialist we have a significant impact on animal welfare standards. We have always been committed to ensuring that the welfare of all animals used in the production of our products is safeguarded. Our continued commitment to animal welfare has also been recognised by leading animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming - we've been awarded Tier 1 status in the Business Benchmark in Farm Animal Welfare since 2013, the longest recognised UK retailer in this leading Tier.

Commitments and targets
Our goal is to ensure that our suppliers adopt and implement the highest practical and commercially viable standards of farm animal welfare across our supply base and be able to demonstrate continuous improvement in farm animal health and welfare standards. We have reported on our animal welfare and environmental outcome indicators since 2018 and use this data to shape future production standards and drive a continual improvement culture across our farm supply base. 

Our commitment to animal welfare extends to our stance on animal testing. We do not test or ask suppliers or other third parties to test household products on animals – this extends to the ingredients used within these products. And since 1 January 2006 we have not sold any products or products containing ingredients which have been tested on animals for cosmetic purposes. Find out more about our approach to household goods. 

Milk, dairy products, eggs and many types of meats, fish and seafood are used as ingredients in our products and we care greatly about the health and welfare of all the animals that feed into our supply chains. We believe that animal welfare has an impact on food quality, so we only want to use ingredients with have been farmed to good welfare standards. 

Our overarching Farm Animal Health and Welfare Policy requires that high standards of animal welfare are met and maintained at all stages of the animal’s life – on the farm, during transportation and at the place of slaughter. This commitment applies right across our business – from our fresh products to all the raw material proteins that are used as an ingredient in our prepared foods. These are global commitments and apply wherever we trade. 

In developing our animal health and welfare policies and production specifications we have used the internationally recognised ‘Five Freedoms’ recommended by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee as a framework and for guidance. These freedoms are: 

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
  2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
We have developed our own detailed standards and were the first retailer to pioneer a farm assurance scheme – M&S Select Farm Standards – to address our customers’ concerns on food safety, animal welfare and animal health. We are working with our suppliers and a number of leading organisations (e.g. RSCPA, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), the Humane Slaughter Association and FAI Farms) to further research and progress our animal welfare standards through the adoption of outcome measure assessments.

We have a dedicated team of agriculture and fisheries specialists responsible for defining and implementing our agriculture policies across our business. All our agriculture managers are externally trained in animal welfare by Bristol University and re-certified every 3 years and we have a requirement that our suppliers also undertake the same rigorous certification. Our aquaculture team has worked with industry experts, Fish Vet Group, to develop and launch a comprehensive training course on fish and shrimp welfare, which is followed by all our aquaculture partners. 

All M&S food is clearly labelled with the method of production and the country of origin of the meat or fish and seafood. Where we have specifically adopted higher welfare systems (e.g. Oakham™ chicken, M&S Scottish Salmon, Free Range Eggs etc.) we promote these to our customers via a number of channels including this website, in-store décor and on pack messages. We publish information about our approach to animal welfare on this website and at agricultural shows.

We have been widely recognised as a leader in farm animal welfare. We have topped the Compassion in World Farming annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare since 2013. And since 2002 we’ve received 10 awards from CIWF including their inaugural Cage-Free Award in 2017 in recognition of the steps we've taken to end the use of all cages across all relevant species in our supply chains. Sitting alongside this, we have also been awarded a number of recognitions from RSPCA including the Sustained Excellence Award in the RSPCA Good Business Awards 2011 for achievements in animal welfare.
Our approach to continually improving animal welfare focuses on:
Establishing and maintaining clear minimum standards
Minimum sourcing principles
Our Technical Terms of Trade set out our minimum technical expectations for suppliers, which includes animal welfare. It also sets out our position on a number of areas. For example, we do not permit the genetic engineering or cloning of livestock. Our Technical Terms of Trade are supported by our Farm Animal Health and Welfare Policy. Production and welfare requirements are detailed in our species specific Codes of Practice (see Select Farm Sourcing Standards below).

The following minimum standards exist across our meat, fish and shellfish, dairy and egg supply chains:

  • We don’t permit the use of production or confinement systems for any animals in our supply which don’t meet our standards (e.g. sow stall or tether systems)
  • We don’t allow specific breeds that have inherent welfare issues associated with them, e.g. Barbary duck
  • We don’t allow genetic engineering or cloning of livestock
  • We do not allow meat, bone meal or any unauthorised feed products in our livestock diets
  • We do not permit the routine behavioural mutilation of farm animals and farmed fish (including tail docking and teeth clipping in pigs) unless veterinary advice deems it strictly necessary in order to protect the animals from subsequent loss of welfare due to injury. Where certain practices are currently unavoidable within the industry (e.g. castration or disbudding of male cattle) suppliers must utilise early intervention and best practice procedures with appropriate use of anaesthetic and analgesic for pain relief.
  • Appropriate environmental enrichment must be provided in accordance with species-specific requirements.
  • All the meat and poultry we sell must, without exception, come from animals that have been humanely slaughtered and animals must be pre-slaughter stunned
  • We insist that all live animal transport is kept to a minimum and that long-distance transport is avoided. To ensure this, we specify a maximum transport time of 8 hours and have a target of less than 4 hours (inclusive of loading/unloading). (Note: the only exception to this policy is the transportation of farmed Atlantic salmon and farmed scallops and mussels which are covered within species-specific Codes of Practice. Find out more about our approach to managing the welfare of farmed fish and shellfish)
  • We require that all animals are maintained in good health and those that are sick or injured receive prompt treatment. All producers must implement an animal health plan in conjunction with their veterinary surgeon that is regularly reviewed and updated
  • We insist that producers adhere to our policy on responsible antimicrobial use. We do not permit routine use of antimicrobials and the use of growth promoting antibiotics and hormones is prohibited
  • All abattoirs used in our supply chain have CCTV as part of our requirements. We regularly review footage and insist it is kept for a minimum of 90 days
Adherence to our standards forms part of our terms of trade with our suppliers and is reviewed as part of our M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards programme and Welfare Audit programme. As we’ve rolled out outcome measure assessments across our supply base, we’ve set new levels of minimum standards and drive continual improvement. 

M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards
All our producers must adhere to current legislative requirements and abide by the UK Red Tractor standard (or equivalent standard outside of the UK). We’ve also gone beyond these requirements by developing additional criteria that producers must meet to be accepted into our supply chains as an M&S Select Farm. Our M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards are set out in our Codes of Practice and include specifications on all areas of sustainability including animal welfare, people welfare, environment and efficiency. They are a fundamental link in an integrated chain of assurance from farm to store.

Our Codes of Practice set out our species-specific animal welfare requirements on training and competencies, housing, shelter and handling, health and nutrition, medication, feed and water, lairage and transport, and humane stunning and slaughter. 

For some species our requirements are in line with current legislation and industry standards, but for many others we’ve gone beyond industry norms by adopting higher welfare standards, for example:

Eggs We sell 100% free-range eggs, both fresh shell and as an ingredient in our prepared products. Find out more about our approach to sourcing eggs.
Turkeys, geese and ducks All our fresh whole turkeys and ducks are produced to higher welfare standards including increased space and enrichment provision. All M&S geese are free range and we do not sell foie-gras or its by-products. Find out more about our approach to sourcing poultry.
Pork All fresh pork is RSPCA Assured outdoor bred produced on M&S Select Farms. Within our specialty range we also have organic pork too.. We are currently working to remove all confinement farrowing from our ingredient supply by January 2021. Find out more about our approach to sourcing pig meat.
Chicken All our Oakham fresh chicken is reared in barns with increased space (stocked at 30kg/m2), natural daylight and provision of environmental enrichment. Find out more about our approach to sourcing poultry.
Dairy All farms in our M&S Milk Pool are RSPCA Assured. All herds supplying us with fresh milk follow an enhanced health and welfare programme, which is audited by a specialist veterinary surgeon each year. Find out more about our approach to dairy.  
Beef None of our calves are reared for white veal, only rose veal. Find out more about our approach to sourcing beef.
Fish and shellfish 
We’ve developed our own standards for the sourcing of farmed fish and fish feed. 

We aim to source wild-caught fish from the most responsible sources available. We recognise that we have a greater influence over animal welfare in a farmed fish environment, but we also seek to apply relevant welfare criteria in wild capture environments. Find out more about our approach to sourcing fish and shellfish.
Find out more about our approach to animal welfare for specific raw materials on the following pages: beef, lamb & venison, pork, poultry, game, fish and shellfish, dairy, and eggs

We continually seek to improve our standards and carry out an annual independent review of our codes of practice alongside our partners.

Animal feed policy
All our livestock are fed either home produced feeds or feeds certified under the Feed Material Assurance Scheme (FEMAS).

We require our major soy-using livestock suppliers of monogastric (i.e. pigs and poultry) and farmed fish species to source soy-containing feed to a standard that has been confirmed by the International Trade Centre's (ITC) Standards Map as meeting the requirements of the European Feed Manufacturers Federation (FEFAC) Soy Sourcing Guidelines

We work with our farmers to ensure they are responsible in the way that they use antibiotics whilst delivering the very highest standards of animal welfare. 

For some time, we’ve had a policy in place to reduce antibiotic use. It states that no animal grown for M&S is ever treated with antibiotics unless it is ill and the vet and farmer have considered all other available treatments.  All our farmers must record antibiotic usage and we are committed to achieving annual reduction targets. We also monitor animal welfare through the recording of outcome measures, so that we can be certain that animal welfare is safeguarded.

Because there are some important antibiotics that the government has identified as being critical to human health, our policy also prohibits farmers using these (e.g. fluroquinolones, fourth and fifth generation cephalosporins and macrolides) and Colistin has also been removed in response to latest evidence. 

We will continue to work closely with our farmers, and with leading scientists, to find alternative approaches that reduce the need to use antibiotics whilst maintaining or enhancing animal welfare. It is a complex area, but we are committed to leading the way on this important issue for the benefit of us all. 

M&S and Halal Certification

All of our Halal prepared meals are certified by the Halal Food Authority (HFA) - which has widespread recognition and regulates a large proportion of Halal products in the UK.  The HFA Halal certification is in line with our longstanding Animal Welfare Policy – which requires animals to be stunned prior to slaughter.  
For our Halal range we only source from farmers we know and trust and only use British Chicken from farms that meet our Select Farm requirements. 

Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capability within our supply chain
Farming for the Future
We introduced M&S Farming for the Future in 2010 as our programme of initiatives which champions sustainability, innovation and continual improvement. It exists so that we can deliver our commitment to source our raw materials for food products from the most sustainable sources possible.

Farming for the Future is about us helping the farmers and growers in our supply base meet our M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards and address the challenges ahead by finding opportunities to improve efficiency, environmental performance and ethical practice. This will make their businesses more resilient and profitable, ensuring that they can continue to deliver quality and innovation for the long term whilst reducing their impact on the world around them. In turn, this delivers security of supply for M&S. Animal health and welfare is a key element of our approach.

Research and innovation
We are committed to driving further improvement in our animal husbandry and welfare standards based on good scientific advice and where necessary investing in animal welfare advice and R&D.

Research and innovation is a key element of our M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards and our Farming for the Future programme. We have chosen the independent FAI Farms as our strategic partner for farm animal welfare innovation and R&D. 

We also work closely with animal welfare centres of excellence (e.g. universities, agricultural colleges, and research institutes) to ensure our specifications remain up to date and leading. 

Working with FAI Farms and other expert organisations we have prioritised our key innovation activities on farm animal welfare. Our current research priorities include:

  • Ongoing development of Welfare Outcome Measures
  • Indoor non-confinement farrowing systems for pigs
  • Reduction of Campylobacter in broiler chickens on farm and at slaughter
  • Environmental enrichment for chicken production
  • Avoidance of beak tipping for laying hens
  • Responsible use of animal medicines in all supply chains
  • Improved foot health in dairy cattle
  • Humane slaughter methods for sea bass and sea bream
  • Salmon safe technology for predator management on salmon farms
  • The effect of breed and stocking density on welfare and behaviour in indoor broilers
We're committed to promoting non-animal derived protein alongside animal based protein. As part of our Plan A 2025 commitments we aim to have grown a comprehensive range of vegetable-based protein meal options and innovations by 2020. By 2019, we've also committed to establish a new partnership to increase our understanding and definition of sustainable animal protein and report about the action we take to implement our findings. We report our progress through our annual Plan A Progress Updates.

Find out more about our approach to food research and technical innovation.
Improving performance through science-based outcome measures
Sustainability outcome measures
In recent years there has been a shift away from focusing on farming systems and input standards towards measuring and seeking to improve sustainability outcomes.

This outcomes-based approach helps to provide robust information about the standards on farm, but importantly, allows farmers to pioneer their own solutions and innovations to make progress. This flexibility and creativity is crucial for tackling some of the long-standing challenges to sustainable food production.

Published measures are those that have been agreed with suppliers and are already collected or in progress for collection for fresh, and ingredient farmed raw materials. Sustainability measures address animal health and welfare and environmental metrics currently. Social metrics will be considered in the future. 

At present, some outcome measures are not validated or practical to collect therefore 'input' measures are used in the interim to provide information on these areas. As new methods of collection are developed, the published list of measures will be updated accordingly. 

The welfare outcome measures we monitor are provided on the following pages: beef, lamb and venison, pork, poultry, dairy, eggs, and fish & shellfish.

We also engage with our NGO partners on outcome measure findings to drive continued improvement in our supply chains

Having established outcome measure collection for all key species within the M&S supply, we are using the data collected to set targets to drive continual improvement, in line with our Plan A commitment.
Outcome measures have been embedded into our M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standards and are integral to the way we do business. We have set outcome measure targets for 2025 in our most established supply chains -  chicken, laying hens and pork. Other key species will follow.
The 2025 target set for each outcome measure is derived from the mean of the top (best performing) quartile data for 2017, across all suppliers of that species, and all production systems. Each species has one set of targets, regardless of production system. Results are shown as the percentage of farms currently meeting the target.  
Suppliers must show continual improvement and progression towards the 2025 targets, this is tracked by using a progress indicator which provides the figure they must achieve as a minimum each year in order to deliver the 2025 target.  Tracking progress is embedded into both our internal reporting and supplier scorecards. Outcome measure performance is reviewed across all species, on a quarterly basis, by the M&S Agriculture team alongside suppliers.

Suppliers annual results will be rated Red, Amber or Green for each measure.  Red indicates no improvement or worse performance, Amber indicates improvement but not reaching the level of the progress indicator, Green indicates progress indicator level delivered/exceeded.  If no improvement has been seen and a measure has been scored as red suppliers will need to put comprehensive improvement plans in place to address this. 

Performance summary
M&S Select Farm Assurance Audits
We have put appropriate assurance arrangements in place to check that our suppliers meet our requirements.

If a supplier fails to meet the standards we will work with them to make changes to improve performance. However, if our standards continue not to be met, they will be removed from our supply. Find out more about our approach to supplier management.

Our direct supplier (usually the primary processor) is responsible for undertaking the M&S Select Farm Sourcing Standard Audit to our standards. The Select Farm auditor (employed or contracted to the supplier) is trained to our requirements by an independent specialist audit company and has to be retrained every three years.

During 2019/20, Lloyd's Register performed a number of shadow audits and spot checks to ensure consistency with our standards. 

All Select Farms – a total of 10,000 farms – are required to have an M&S Select Farm Assurance Audit to a specified frequency (typically every 12 to 18 months depending on species). Sites must pass this audit in order to be part of our supply chain. In 2019/20, 8,656 farms were audited and ‘passed’ their Select Farm Sourcing Standards audits. The remainder of farms have either been audited recently or are in the process of being scheduled for an audit to take place during 2020/21. 

During the same period, Lloyd's Register, carried out additional independent verification audits of 82 Select Farms and found no issues of concern. 

During 2019/20, feed mills and hatcheries were also audited to our standards by Lloyd's Register. Find out more about how our suppliers are performing.
M&S Welfare Audits

During 2019/20, FSIG carried out Welfare Audits of the primary processors to ensure transport, lairage and slaughter all meet our requirements.

Based on the results of the audit, suppliers are assigned a rating based on the number and type of non-conformances and how they are progressing with addressing non-conformances from previous audits. 

Audit findings and corrective actions are stored on Connect – our online Quality Management System. The supplier must sign off all audit actions within agreed timescales via FSIGs audit system- AuditHub.

All sites receiving live animals and carrying out slaughter on site are required to have a Welfare Audit each year. A total of 41 abattoirs were audited during 2019/20, 94% of which met or exceeded our requirements. Eight sites were rated ‘Improvement Required’, 23 sites were rated ‘Good’ and 4 sites achieved ‘Outstanding’ status.

Six sites failed to meet our requirements which necessitated immediate and robust corrective action to be taken. Re-audits are generally carried out within 3 months of the original audit date in order to verify that improvements have been made and sites meet our requirements. 

Key performance measures
We're committed to reporting on our use of animal welfare and environmental outcome-indicators for fresh meat, farmed fish, poultry, fresh milk and laying hens.


Global supply chain measures (fresh & ingredient including frozen)1
Percent (%) animals in M&S supply chain free from routine mutilations193.9
Percent (%) animals in M&S supply chain free from confinement99.2
Percent (%) of pigs in M&S supply chain (fresh, ingredient and continental including frozen) free from tail docking238.7
Percent (%) of M&S pork supply (fresh, ingredient and continental including frozen) from sows that are non-confinement farrowed261.9
Percent (%) of laying hens in M&S supply chain (fresh and ingredient) free from beak trimming40.3
Percent (%) animals (excluding fin fish) in M&S supply chain transported within specified maximum journey times (i.e. 8 hours or less)100
Percent (%) animals (including fin fish) in M&S supply chain pre-stunned prior to slaughter100
Percent (%) animals provided with effective species-specific enriched environments3100
Percent (%) animals ineffectively stunned, i.e. subject to back-up or repeat stunning40.00
Percent (%) chickens (fresh, ingredient, frozen) that were recognised slower growing breeds with higher welfare outcome potentials (as specified in the European Chicken Commitment)5.2
Percentage (%) of broiler chickens for own-brand fresh/frozen products and ingredients in the company’s global supply chain that was reared at lower stocking densities (specifically, 30 kg/m2 or less)?534.5

Since 2017 covers the calendar year period, i.e. January to December. Previous years data reported on a financial year basis, i.e. April to March. 

1 Expanded scope for 2020 reporting. Does not include processed dairy as data is not available. 

2 Calculated based on whole animal equivalents rather than eligible animals

3 Grazing is counted as species-specific enrichment for beef, lamb and venison. Projects on finfish currently underway

4 In 2020 Data missing from one continental pork supplier (7% of continental pork supply) 

5 Calculated based on actual bird numbers (whole bird equivalents) rather than eligible animals

For 2019 data missing from one ingredient egg supplier, one continental pork supplier and dairy supply for ineffective stunning.

In 2017, we began to report on a number of key species-specific animal health and welfare measures on the following pages: beef/lamb, pork, poultry, dairy, eggs and fish & shellfish.

We aim to use this data to shape future production standards and drive a continual improvement culture across our farm supply base.

Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.

To develop our approach to animal welfare, we’ve worked with many industry experts and scientists. We continue to work with these leading organisations (e.g. RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, the Humane Slaughter Association, and FAI Farms) to further research and progress our animal welfare standards. Operationally, we’re supported by our suppliers and expert organisations such as Bristol University, Fish Vet Group, RSPCA, FAI Farms and specialist independent audit companies to implement our policies. 

We have a long-term partnership with FAI Farms who provide us with animal welfare knowledge and direction and are responsible for managing our independent data collection and supply chain research and outcome measures.