More information on our UK animal welfare
UK Specific Information - Tesco Retail Store and One Stop
Last updated: 30/09/2020
Animal welfare is important to us and to our customers. We are committed to working responsibly in this area and to continue to progress and influence best practice in our supply chain.
Welfare of farm animals anywhere worldwide that supply our UK business is managed day to day by our Agriculture Team and Head of Agriculture. Our team is made up of experts who are trained in and passionate about farm animal health and welfare. We have dedicated agriculture managers covering Aquaculture, Beef, Dairy, Lamb, Pigs, Poultry & Eggs and Produce. It is the responsibility of the Agriculture Team to work with farmers and suppliers to oversee animal welfare in the supply chain, setting ambitious targets and working hard to drive continuous progress and influence best practice in this area. This is achieved through a number of drivers including the Tesco Sustainable Farming Groups (TSFG’s), Tesco Agri T-Jam, Tesco Sustainability Scorecard, Tesco Supplier Network, Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements, Welfare Outcome Measures, benchmarking and audit compliance. Through these mechanisms we identify ways in which high standards of animal welfare can be assured and improved in a manner that is achievable for our supply base.
In addition to this we consult and engage with key stakeholders. These include veterinarians, academics, government representatives, industry bodies, training providers and key animal welfare organisations such as RSPCA Assured and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). We are engaged members of a number of farm animal welfare initiatives including Red Tractor, Global G.A.P Aquaculture, Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials (FIIA) and Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA). We feel it is vitally important for us to be active members in these forums so that we can positively drive animal welfare forward in our supply chains and ensure our farmers have the best access to the knowledge discussed.
We are always striving to improve the animal health and welfare standards that we work to. This is why they are regularly reviewed with stretching targets that we report against in our annual Little Helps Plan report.
Tesco Welfare Approved livestock requirements
Our Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements ensure transparency across our supply chains and are designed and regularly reviewed to drive improvement. They are species-specific and broadly cover all aspects of animal rearing including health, welfare, feed, production systems, environment, stocking, transport and slaughter, all encompassing the Five Freedoms proposed by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee. The livestock covered in these requirements include dairy, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, pigs and aquaculture species. 100% of our farms must comply with a recognised farm assurance standard, such as Red Tractor (or an in-country scheme compliant with both EN ISO/IEC 17065:2012 certification requirements and benchmarked for equivalence with Red Tractor) in addition to satisfying our TWA requirements which cover further improvements in animal welfare.
Within all of our species-specific requirements we specify the maximum livestock allowed in any area to avoid close confinement. We define this by the species and production system, based on welfare monitoring, legislation and evidence based best practice approaches.
Stall and/or tether housing is not permitted in our pork supply chain. Our egg production is from free-range and indoor housed hens; we have committed to stop sourcing eggs from caged hens by 2025. We do not allow routine tethering of cattle, veal crates, non-enriched cages or high stocking numbers in any species including fish.
Within our requirements we actively exclude or are working to reduce the need for routine management procedures such as tail docking. Where procedures are carried out this is done on a veterinary risk assessed basis and to welfare standards exceeding legislative requirements, including but not limited to requirements with regard to use of anaesthesia and pain relief in defined instances. We are committed to finding alternatives to these procedures and looking at research to explore genetics, nutrition, environmental management and enrichment as preferred alternatives. For example, we are working with suppliers to eliminate the need for beak trimming in commercial layers and supporting our EU pork producers to explore alternative castration management strategies. Beak trimming in commercial meat chickens, dubbing of cockerels, fin clipping of fin fish, tail docking of cattle and mulesing in lambs are not allowed in our supply chains.
We recognise the importance of enrichment in mitigating the need for routine management practices such as tail docking. Therefore, in addition to density requirements, we also stipulate that all livestock housing must promote a range of natural behaviours through enrichment techniques or building designs that mimic natural conditions. Species-specific enrichment requirements are detailed further under species sub-headings.
At Tesco we recognise the importance of antibiotics in both human and animal medicine and the threat from improper use in livestock supply chains. We already encourage our producers to optimise welfare, health, hygiene, husbandry and biosecurity of animals and avoid the need to use antibiotic treatment unless the welfare of an animal is compromised.
Antibiotics are not used prophylactically and their use as growth promoters is specifically prohibited (as is the use of hormonal growth promoting substances). Where it is necessary to treat an animal therapeutically, it must be done under veterinary supervision with the vet deciding which type of antibiotic is appropriate. All antibiotic usage must be recorded and be fully traceable. The strategic principles for antibiotic use must be documented in a veterinary health plan, which must be regularly reviewed by both the vet and farmer. We make sure that Critically Important Antibiotics (CIA’s) for human health are only ever used as a last resort when other courses of action haven’t worked or where the disease is known to be non-responsive to any other antibiotic class (so called ‘sensitivity testing’). This approach is based upon advice from experts using the most up to date science and evidence.
We are actively working to reduce use of antibiotics in our supply chain through our supplier partnerships and sustainable farming groups. Going forward, targeted reduction strategies and sharing of best practice will help us achieve significant year on year reductions in antibiotic use in our supply chains.
We are part of the Food Industry Initiative on Antimicrobials which has the stated vision of ‘Retailers, manufacturers, processors and food service companies coming together to promote and support responsible antimicrobial use and action on antimicrobial resistance’. The intention of this initiative is to support and engage with existing industry groups working in this area, ensuring work is aligned and avoiding duplication of effort. It has three key working groups on Responsible Use, Data and Research & Development.
By working with our supplier partners and industry experts, we have defined 8 on-going commitments. Details of our antibiotic reduction commitments and progress against these can be found here.
Within our Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements we specify that all farm to slaughter livestock journey times must be kept to a minimum and not exceed 8 hours. We verify this at audit and typically have 100% compliance. Any instances exceeding this must be documented and root cause determined to prevent repeat occurrences. Transportation of aquatic species poses different challenges. For this reason Tesco actively encourages the humane slaughter of fin fish and crustacea in-situ i.e. at the site of final grow on. Where this is not possible our TWA Standards stipulate strict criteria for water quality parameters e.g. dissolved oxygen and the associated monitoring required.
Working with skilled animal handlers
All personnel involved in live animal handling in the slaughter process are trained to a recognised animal welfare standard, for example, Bristol Animal Welfare Training. We have also delivered bespoke training in response to sector-specific needs, including providing fish and shrimp welfare training for Asian aquaculture farmers and regular welfare outcome measure and audit compliance training for beef, sheep, eggs and aquaculture supply chains alongside practical animal handling for our Italian Parma ham supply. We hold regular dairy welfare workshops as part of our Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group and this approach is now being embedded across our other Tesco Sustainable Farming Groups e.g. Lamb, Laying Hens and Salmon.
100% of animals destined for our stores (own-label and branded products), with the exception of a small number of designated and clearly labelled branded concessions subject to religious slaughter policies, are stunned before slaughter. This includes finfish species and Tesco have been at the forefront of supporting suppliers in the implementation of effective and immediate stunning methods in both finfish and latterly crustacea. In addition, we require all producers of livestock supplying into our UK own-label products to record the pre-slaughter stunning process and efficacy of the system, which we verify at audit. Each species has a different approach and we work with producers, researchers and academics to ensure the procedure is achieved 100% of the time, is humane and uses the best available recognised techniques. More information on our religious slaughter policy can be found here.
Welfare outcomes performance reporting
Being transparent about our policies, standards and progress is important. To help us identify animal welfare issues concerning physical, mental and behavioural wellbeing in our supply chain, we have introduced animal welfare outcome measures which give an indicator of positive and negative welfare approaches on farm, during transport and up to the point of slaughter. We gather data monthly, which is then anonymised and shared with our farmers for use as a benchmarking exercise to identify best practice. We also look to identify opportunities in the data trends to drive improvement through our Tesco Sustainable Farming Groups (TSFG’s) as well as our Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) standards. Management of our agricultural data requirements, including our Welfare Outcome Measures programme, is supported by an independent data service provider, Foods Connected.
Typically the welfare outcomes cover:
- Productivity measures
- Livestock behaviour and vocalisation in transport and at the abattoir
- Effectiveness of stun process
- Physical body condition and movement analysis
Tesco is committed to the implementation of CCTV coverage of livestock handling, stun and slaughter throughout the global supply chain to Tesco. Currently this is evident in 100% of UK sites and over 99% of non-UK sites supplying Tesco UK, One Stop and Booker. We are working to achieve 100% across global sites to include some system of image capture even in challenging environments e.g. aquaculture supply chains. Regular, documented review is a core component of the CCTV policy and review of historic images is used in our welfare audits.
Compound feed must be sourced from approved mills which includes mills that have UFAS
standard (or a scheme of benchmarked equivalence such as Global G.A.P for fish feed).
There are further species-specific details but the overarching policy is:
- No inclusion of land animal fats.
- No use of processed animal protein or land animal proteins.
- No closed loop feeding.
- Farmers take great care in choosing the right diets for their animals to thrive and no animal is force fed. Exceptional occasions may occur where a farmer needs to nurse an individual which may lead to assisted feeding.
Compliance with Tesco Welfare Approved livestock requirements
We recognise that Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements and associated policy and procedure are only of value where compliance can be effectively and consistently demonstrated, irrespective of species, sector or geographical location. This is why we use an independent organisation to audit our supply chains. Lloyd’s Register, a leading independent provider of accredited certification services, animal welfare and customised assurance programmes, inspects against our TWA standards globally. For the food sector, Lloyd’s Register’s farm-to-fork expertise encompasses everything from aquaculture and fisheries, feed mills and farms, through to food manufacturers and retailers.
Management of our agricultural data requirements, including our Welfare Outcome Measures programme, is supported by Foods Connected.
As a minimum all slaughter sites and poultry hatcheries are inspected annually. The majority of EU abattoirs are inspected on an unannounced basis and other parts of each supply chain are short-term announced. In this way we ensure compliance and good practice and also emerging trends or concerns can be identified and addressed quickly.
Lloyd’s Register works with the relevant Tesco Agriculture Manager to ensure that any challenges identified during audits are addressed and steps are put in place to prevent re-occurrence. Challenges are reviewed on an ongoing basis. There is a process of continued dialogue with suppliers to support and address improvement requirements, but where expectations are not met, we stop sourcing from that site.
All of our poultry, including our Willow Farms poultry, are reared to recognised farm assurance standards. We work with our global supply base to gather welfare outcome measurement data that ensures the welfare of the poultry in our supply chain is upheld and indeed enhanced. Targets are set on key welfare indicators, such as pododermatitis, hockburn and effective stunning at slaughter. We work with our farmers and suppliers to continually drive improvement across the supply chain. Our dedicated farmers check every flock of birds at least twice a day, and their environment is constantly monitored to ensure their health, wellbeing and high animal welfare. Stocking densities are in line with British Red Tractor standards. We are proactive in our engagement with the industry to drive improvements in welfare standards, and sit on the Red Tractor Board for Poultry.
Our fresh chickens are reared in houses with windows that allow natural daylight and encourage expression of natural behaviours through providing perching bales, additional perching and pecking objects.
All our fresh primary chicken is British and compliant with the British Poultry Council Antibiotics Stewardship Scheme. Chickens sourced from outside the UK for our frozen or convenience ranges are reared to the same high standards as our British chicken, and must meet the rigorous Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements. Each Tesco chicken can be traced back to the farm it was reared on; this gives our consumer complete peace of mind in terms of traceability.
Our ‘Room to Roam’ chickens are sourced from British farms which are assured to RSPCA Assured standards alongside Red Tractor’s Enhanced Welfare Module. This means that birds have greater space allowance and increased environmental enrichment provision, as well as being a slower growing breed.
Our Finest* Free Range chickens are RSPCA Assured, slower growing, corn fed birds that are free to roam outdoors from dawn till dusk in grass leys where they can explore, forage for insects, dust bathe and carry out their natural behaviour. At night they sleep indoors, safe from the elements and predators with environmental enrichment such as bales and perching.
Our organic chickens are fed a certified organic diet and are a slower growing breed, free to roam outside during daylight hours. Our Organic farms are certified by organic farm accreditation bodies, including Organic Farmers and Growers or Organic Food Federation.
All our fresh turkeys are reared in the UK and Ireland in houses with environmental enrichment that encourages expression of natural behaviours through provision of straw bales, perching and pecking objects. Each Tesco turkey can be traced back to the farm it was reared on.
Our fresh Finest* Free Range Bronze turkeys are RSPCA Assured and free to roam from dawn till dusk on ranges that are enriched with trees, hedges and shelters. At Christmas time we sell organic turkeys, which come from farms that are audited by organic farm accreditation bodies, for example Organic Farmers and Growers. They are fed a certified organic diet and are a slower growing breed.
All our eggs are produced to recognised farm assurance standards. We work with our global supply base to gather welfare outcome measurement data that ensures the welfare of the poultry in our supply chain is upheld and indeed enhanced. Targets are set on key welfare indicators, such as feather coverage and antagonistic behaviour. We work with our farmers and suppliers to continually drive improvement across the supply chain. Our dedicated farmers check every flock of birds at least twice a day, and their environment is constantly monitored to ensure their health, wellbeing and high animal welfare. Stocking densities are always in line with legislative requirements, but a significant amount of production is drawn from higher welfare systems with enhanced space allowance.
We are part of the Laying Hen Welfare Forum and the Beak Trimming Action Group, working proactively with the industry to further understand the welfare issues around egg laying hens.
Our entry tier eggs are laid by hens in enriched colony systems which meet British Lion welfare standards and our independently audited Tesco Welfare Approved livestock requirements. This includes strict measures on traceability, welfare, feed, temperature and hygiene.
We have committed to stop sourcing shell eggs from these systems by 2025. A total of 82% of the shell eggs we sold during 2019/20 came from non-cage production. In addition to this previous commitment and working with our supplier partners, we will also transition to 100% cage-free in our ingredient eggs, moving to alternative production methods, such as barn, free range and organic by 2025.
Our free-range hens are RSPCA Assured and free to roam from dawn till dusk in grass leys where they can explore, forage for insects, dust bathe and carry out their natural behaviour. At night they sleep indoors, safe from the elements and predators with environmental enrichment such as bales, perching and cover crops.
Our organic eggs come from free range hens which are free to roam on organic pastures and are fed on an organically produced diet. These farms must meet high welfare requirements set by the British Egg Industry Council, which are checked annually by an independent organic certification body. Our organic farms are certified by organic farm accreditation bodies, including Organic Farmers and Growers and Organic Food Federation.
All of our dairy products produced in the UK are from independently assured farms that have met the requirements of the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme. Tethering and tail docking are not permitted on farms that supply us.
Since 2007, we have worked directly with 600 dairy farmers – the largest group of dairy farmers working directly with a retailer - with herds ranging from 40 to 1,900 cows, who supply us with fresh milk. In return, we pay guaranteed prices and agree long term contracts, through the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG). All of our milk is 100% British, from cows who receive great care and attention.
Each of our dairy cows produces around 8,000 litres of milk a year so the health and wellbeing of our cows is a priority for Tesco and the farmers we work with. Each farm manages their production system to suit the geography and climate from South East England to Wales and Scotland. All our TSDG dairy farms, in addition to Red Tractor assurance, meet our specific Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements. We have clear welfare measures for cow body condition, antibiotic usage, calving success, record keeping etc. We set targets for improvement each year, and monitor important areas such as lameness, cow health and cleanliness on each farm. This allows TSDG farmers to benchmark their performance with the rest of the group and allows us to target any help and resources to those areas where farmers need it most. To make sure our suppliers are always striving to meet our requirements, our TSDG farms are visited every year by an independent auditor. We are able to evidence year-on-year improvement against both required and aspirational elements of our requirements (such as the provision of enrichment devices i.e. cow brushes). The TSDG Standards Working Group independently evaluates these performance datasets to further inform direction of travel in relation to cow health and welfare, standard content and research and development priorities.
Since 2008 we have worked with Liverpool University’s Tesco Dairy Centre of Excellence at Wood Park, Neston. Our TSDG farmers and the wider industry have benefited from trials on bedding, mobility, fertility and other research and sharing of best practice. We are proactive in our engagement with the industry to drive improvements in welfare standards, and sit on the Red Tractor Board for Dairy.
Calves produced on TSDG dairy farms are not allowed to be live exported, except for breeding purposes. We discourage the use of antibiotics to prevent disease and since 2008 we have been encouraging our TSDG farmers to minimise the use of antibiotics important for human health in cows and calves. We are working with vets to strengthen how we can support our farmers in a preventative medicine approach and to reduce further the antibiotic use on TSDG farms.
Our British hard cheese is produced from milk that comes from farmers in our Tesco Cheese Group, who receive a premium over the market to work with Tesco on the health and welfare of their herds. These farms monitor disease and like TSDG farms they measure their progress against targets for mobility, cleanliness and health measures.
Our Tesco organic dairy producers are measured by organic standards set out and audited by the Soil Association or Organic Farmers and Growers. Standards include requirements for free grazing and restricted levels of antimicrobial treatments.
Tesco Finest* milk comes from Scotland and is produced by Channel Island cows.
All beef used in our Tesco own brand products (fresh, frozen or ingredient) is sourced from British and Irish farms, meeting our Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements in addition to Red Tractor or equivalent assurance scheme. Our farmers use a documented herd health plan to ensure cattle are healthy throughout their life all of our cattle are free from tail docking.
Alongside auditing we ask each of our suppliers to share monthly welfare outcome measurement data that ensures the welfare of the animals in our supply chain is upheld. Targets are set on key welfare indicators, such as lameness, cleanliness and effective stunning at slaughter. We are proactive in our engagement with the industry to drive improvements in welfare standards, and sit on the Red Tractor Technical Advisory Committee for Red Meat.
Our organic beef is reared in the UK on organic grassland to Soil Association or Organic Farmers and Growers organic certification standards. There are a variety of beef production systems in the UK and Ireland and this is reflected in the cattle that we source.
We have an Integrated Beef contract directly with 1200 beef farmers in Great Britain, paying farmers up to 30p/kg bonus for meeting a number of criteria. These cattle are sold through our Finest* tier with the contract stipulating that animals must be sired by a registered Aberdeen Angus bull which is authenticated by the Aberdeen Angus Society. This contract was a first for the beef industry and incentivises our beef farmers to produce beef based on quality parameters and specifications which deliver consistent quality and flavour for our customers.
Our farmers produce some of the best quality lamb in the world by using progressive farming methods and delivering the highest standards of welfare.
In 2016, we set up a Tesco Sustainable Farming Group (TSFG) for lamb farmers. Through this industry-first initiative, Tesco pays the group an agreed price taking into account their cost of production. This supports our 330 farmers to manage the risk of an increasingly volatile market and gives them the ability to plan and certainty to invest in future-proofing their businesses.
In collaboration with our TSFG lamb farmers, in 2019 we designed a ‘Sustainability Scorecard’ which our farmers use to measure progress and benchmark across a range of key metrics. This includes measures for productivity, animal health and welfare and environmental impact. We review this scorecard on an annual basis and reward farmers for continuous improvement on the sustainability issues that are important to our customers.
We follow the seasons to ensure our Finest* lamb is best in season for succulence and flavour.
Our organic lamb farms are independently audited by one of the organic certification bodies including Soil Association. These lambs are fed an organic diet and have access to organic pastures.
In addition to our Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements and third-party assurance schemes, we work with our supply base to gather welfare outcome measurement data that ensures the welfare of the lambs in our supply chain is upheld. Targets are set on key welfare indicators, such as lameness, cleanliness and effective stunning of lambs at slaughter. We do not allow the use of swim washes and prohibit any mulesing practices.
We are proactive in our engagement with the industry to drive improvements in welfare standards, and sit on the Red Tractor Technical Advisory Committee for Red Meat.
All of our pigs, including our Woodside Farms pigs, are reared to recognised farm assurance standards, in addition to meeting our Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) livestock requirements, which are independently audited. We work with our global supply base to gather welfare outcome measurement data that ensures the welfare of the pigs in our supply chain is upheld. Data gathered includes mobility, body condition and behaviour.
Our Finest* pork comes from dedicated British farms which are RSPCA assured. The sows are kept in free-range paddocks and are given plenty of room to root and explore their surroundings.
We do not source direct from livestock markets and all of our pig farms have four independent vet visits per year to ensure that the welfare of our pigs is independently monitored.
We do not allow sows to be kept in stalls. Tail docking and teeth clipping must not be carried out routinely. The necessity of these practices must be regularly risk assessed, reviewed and reported in the quarterly veterinary visit report. 100% of our sows are free from gestation stalls and 100% of our pigs have access to enrichment material which enables proper investigation and manipulation activities.
Our Parma pigs come from farms in the Parma region of Italy. 100% of these pigs are free from tail docking and teeth clipping. Our supplier has collaborated with University research on optimal enrichment strategies for Parma pigs and developed novel strategies using natural materials that provide long term interest to pigs.
We are proactive in our engagement with the industry to drive improvements in welfare standards, and sit on the Red Tractor Board and Technical Advisory Committee for Pigs.
We recognise the importance of environmental and social enrichment to satisfy the behavioural requirements of all pigs farmed within our supply chains. All animals are held in appropriate social groups, within sight and sound of other animals and have access to suitable material that allows pigs to demonstrate investigative, rooting and chewing behaviours. The preferential use of natural materials such as straw, sawdust or soft wood, which are regularly replenished is encouraged. Where alternatives are used they meet key requirements for enrichment in terms of promoting positive behaviours. Innovative enrichment materials such as compressed alfalfa blocks and jute sacking, the latter which facilitates active nesting behaviour in sows, are actively encouraged. The emphasis placed on enrichment is part of Tesco’s overall strategy to reduce the management requirement for practices such as tail docking.
Tesco recognises that breed specific differences exist and that management recommendations from breeding companies may be key to improving pig welfare. This is particularly the case where breeding company requirements exceed legislative or farm assurance benchmarks.
As with other livestock, our suppliers of farmed fish implement equally high standards of animal welfare. These welfare standards apply to our global supply chains for the UK market and are in compliance with the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code and relevant farm assurance standard in addition to Tesco Welfare Approved (TWA) requirements. Our requirements for aquaculture include:
- Species specific welfare standards so that species variations are accounted for.
- Water quality monitoring for optimal growth and as an aid during handling to minimise stress.
- Stocking numbers are limited so that fish have freedom to express normal behaviour and do not experience close confinement. Welfare outcomes are closely monitored in order to review the appropriateness of the stocking.
- Fallowing and biosecurity.
- During livestock transport constant monitoring of water quality and behavioural parameters, with corrective procedures in place.
- Pre-slaughter stunning is a requirement; we monitor the efficacy of this through welfare reporting. This is an area that we consult with leading specialists including academics and NGOs to ensure we are always striving for the most humane approach available to optimise fish welfare at harvest.
- Other welfare measures include fish behaviour, water quality, antibiotic use and effectiveness of pre-slaughter stunning.
- Required farm assurance standards include Global G.A.P and Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
Our own-label salmon, rainbow trout, sea bass, sea bream and basa (also known as river cobbler or pangasius) are all sourced from farms that maintain a high level of welfare irrespective of the different production systems used, which include; sea pens in deep Atlantic waters and Mediterranean coastal waters, ponds in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and freshwater pens in Scottish Lochs. Every farmer operates with the utmost care for the fish in order to optimise fish welfare, quality and freshness.
We endorse the use of biological (rather than chemical) methods of promoting fish health through the use of ‘Cleaner Fish’ species such as wrasse. The welfare of species that co-exist with farmed salmon, for example, is equally as important and reflected in our Agricultural requirements that stipulate that species-specific enrichment and hides must be provided.
Our Finest* salmon are reared in Scottish waters off the coast of West Scotland, Shetland and Orkney and in addition to meeting our welfare standards, are certified to Global G.A.P and RSPCA Assured standards.
Our organic salmon are reared to Naturland, Debio or Soil Association organic standards and salmon are reared at low stocking numbers and fed an organic diet.
Our Tesco Sustainable Farming Group (TSFG) for salmon provides a useful discussion forum for collaboration, innovation, and sharing of best practice, helping to drive continuous progress in fish health and welfare.
Click here for our 2019/20 animal health and welfare report.