Nestlé recently announced a commitment to farm animal welfare in an effort to “remove the worst [practices], promote the best and improve the rest.” Nestlé stated that it will “support and implement actions to promote animal health and welfare.” The world’s largest food company plans to focus attention on some of the most egregious practices used by the animal agriculture industry such as extreme confinement, tail docking, disbudding, and castration without anesthesia. The company also announced general standards for its 7,300 suppliers, including a commitment to restrict antibiotic use.
Unilever, the company that provides grocery store staples like Hellman’s mayonnaise and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, made a similar announcement, expanding their current commitment to animal welfare. In September, the company announced it will finance research for in-ovo gender identification (sexing) of eggs to prevent the culling of newborn male chicks by the egg industry. Because male chicks have no role in egg production and therefore no value to the industry, they are routinely subjected to death by grotesque methods, such as maceration using a high-speed grinder. Sexing technology could prevent the hatching and unnecessary killing of large numbers of male chicks every year.
While the Nestlé and Unilever announcements are encouraging and have the potential to positively impact millions, if not billions, of animals worldwide, they are short on details. For example, Nestlé’s announcement does not strictly prohibit any husbandry practices and neither company sets timelines to ensure implementation of their new commitment to higher standards for farm animals.