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Game is growing in popularity as an alternative to more traditional everyday meats. Its value for money, versatility and nutritional benefits (e.g. it’s low in fat and rich in iron) have helped maintain this popularity. Game birds and ground game (e.g. rabbit) are free range and eat a natural foraged diet. Game also makes an important contribution to the livelihoods of remote rural communities and the local food system.

Management of game estates is essential in helping preserving the countryside and enhances biodiversity. However, natural habitats can be impacted if game becomes heavily populated and stocking densities are not managed carefully. Conservation groups have also expressed concerns about the way in which birds of prey have been managed on some estates in order to protect animal populations.

We work with one single expert supplier to responsibly source game from a very limited number of known and trusted estates. This ensures full accountability and traceability throughout the chain as well as protecting and enhancing natural habitats for a biodiverse landscape and managing animal welfare to the highest standards. Through our Farming for the Future programme we are working with estate managers to help them address the ethical, environmental and economic challenges they face in order to maintain a long-term sustainable and secure supply.

Commitments and targets
We want to lead the retail sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services they expect from M&S, while respecting planetary boundaries and the need for social equity. We recognise the integral role of animal health and welfare in sustainable food production and strive to continue progressing the highest welfare standards. 

Our goal is to ensure that all our meat is produced to the highest standards of food safety and quality by farms that are operating sustainably. This commitment applies right across our business – from our fresh products to all the meat used as an ingredient in our prepared foods. These are global commitments and apply wherever we trade. 

We have a strong heritage of sourcing with integrity. Over the years, we’ve taken significant steps to improve the sourcing of key raw materials in our products.

We are committed to offering a range of game for our customers when in season. Our offer currently includes pheasant, red legged partridge, rabbit and wood pigeon. 

We currently only sell farmed venison as we believe it offers better taste and is a more consistent product. Find out more about our approach to sourcing venison. 

We will not tolerate any illegal practices. We source all our game through one expert supplier. They source from 7 estates located across Northern England and the Scottish Borders which are well-known to us. Whilst we don’t source from these locations directly we have developed close relationships with all of them. 

We have our own Game standards which the estates are audited to we also work with industry assurance body, the British Game Alliance. The relevant laws relating to game are covered in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes’. Codes specific to these guidelines are indicated throughout and should be strictly adhered to. Recommendations for releasing reared game are covered in The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) Guidelines for Sustainable Gamebird Releasing. Guidelines for shooting rearing/released and wild game are outlined within the British Association for Shooting and Conservation’s Code of Good Shooting Practice. None of these codes though meet all of our sourcing requirements so we have spent several years working with estate managers, our suppliers and leading conservation bodies to develop our own specific Codes of Practice. 

Our approach to sourcing game more responsibly is as follows:

Establishing and maintaining clear minimum sourcing standards
Minimum sourcing principles

Our Technical Terms of Trade set our minimum technical expectations for suppliers to meet. They also set out our position on a number of areas. 

Nothing is more important to us than food safety. We believe our product standards are industry-leading. We require all products to be made by suppliers who are technically competent within their specific area and who operate well-managed hygienic locations applying Good Manufacturing Practice, a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach and due diligence to ensure safety, legality, integrity and consistent quality. Find out more about our approach to product standards.

The following minimum standards exist across our entire game supply chain:

Our suppliers are also required to meet the requirements set out in our Global Sourcing Principles. Find out more about our approach to supplier management.
M&S Code of Practice for Game Species Production

All game for both fresh and ingredient use must be sourced from estates which are well-known to us and protect and enhance natural habitats for a bio-diverse landscape. All the estates are required to adhere to legislation and base codes referred to above. But to go one step further, we’ve developed and are implementing our own Code of Practice for Game Species Production.

This Code covers pheasant, red legged partridge, wood pigeon and rabbit. 

Ensuring good animal health and welfare

We are committed to ensuring that the highest standards of animal welfare are adhered to in all our supply chains.

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.

Our M&S Code of Practice for Game Species Production has been designed to support our estate managers to meet our high standards on animal welfare. These are based on the ‘Five Freedoms’ recommended by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour
  • Freedom from fear and distress
Our estates must be committed to rear, handle, transport and slaughter under conditions of minimum stress, within minimal environmental impact and with full regard to animal welfare. 

Labour standards

Our direct suppliers are responsible for ensuring every site supplying M&S, including farms, meet our minimum labour standards which are set out in our Global Sourcing Principles.

Treating employees fairly is the only way to do business and keeping them safe is the most important priority of all. We have a zero tolerance approach to forced labour of any kind within our operations and supply chain. 

We have recently reissued and extended the reach of our Responsible Labour User and Responsible Employment Requirements Policies and Guidelines. Our suppliers are required to have appropriate ways of working to ensure that these requirements are met.

We expect our suppliers to engage our workers in line with legal requirements. They are required to check that all workers have a right to work in a particular country and that they are of legal working age. This applies even if workers are supplied through labour providers, agents or gangmasters. For example, in the UK suppliers are also expected to ensure that labour providers have a valid license from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

Checking compliance with our standards

We have put appropriate assurance arrangements in place to check that our suppliers meet our requirements.

Our direct supplier is responsible for undertaking audits to the full scope of our requirements (set out in M&S Codes of Practice – see above). We also commission specialist independent audit companies to perform a number of shadow audits and spot checks to ensure consistency with our standards. Find out more about our approach to M&S Select Farm Assurance audits.

If a supplier fails to meet our 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.

Supporting programmes that further our understanding and build capacity within our supply chain
Farming for the Future

We introduced 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 farms in our supply base 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. 

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

The work that we have undertaken in developing our Codes of Practice for Game Species is considered ground-breaking for the industry and we could not have achieved it without close co-operation with other organisations. In particular, we have worked closely with the estates that supply us, with the GWCT and other leading conservation bodies.