Animal welfare

SASB: FB-FR-430a.2, FB-FR-430a.3
UN SDG: 12
E | Last Updated: July 7, 2021

Our aspiration

Our aspiration

We aspire to meet increasing demand for affordable protein while maintaining animal welfare, including humane treatment of farm animals grounded in the “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare and responsible use of antibiotics.

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Key goals & metrics

Goal
Metric
FY2019
FY2020
FY2021
Transition Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. to a 100% cage-free egg supply chain by 2025, subject to regulatory changes and based on available supply, affordability and customer demand
Percentage of Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. cage-free shell eggs, as percentage of total shell egg net sales, based on supplier reports

14% Walmart U.S.

18% Sam’s Club U.S.

17% Walmart U.S.

32% Sam’s Club U.S.

18% Walmart U.S.

30% Sam’s Club U.S.

Percentage of shell eggs at Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. meeting United Egg Producers animal welfare requirements or equivalent, based on supplier reports
100%100%

100% Walmart U.S.

100% Sam's Club U.S.

Percentage of Walmart U.S. and Sam's Club U.S. pork suppliers abiding by the standards of the National Pork Board’s (NPB’s) Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus Program, based on supplier reports

100% Walmart U.S.

100% Sam's Club U.S.

Relevance to our business & society

Farm animals play an important role in providing our customers nutritious meat, dairy and eggs, and there is growing public interest in how food is produced.

We share an interest with customers and farmers in meeting increasing demand for affordable protein while maintaining animal welfare – including humane treatment of farm animals as well as responsible use of antibiotics. Walmart stakeholders, including customers, ESG investors, and the veterinarian and NGO communities, expect us to work with suppliers who do not tolerate animal abuse of any kind, find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns in their supply chains, and responsibly administer antibiotics to keep animals healthy while guarding against an increase in antibiotic resistance. While affordability remains a major concern, customers count on us to deliver products produced in ways that are consistent with their values and support public health.

Walmart’s approach

To promote better treatment of animals within our supply chain, Walmart has adopted a series of goals that establish performance standards for our suppliers, commit to a phased transition toward sourcing 100% cage-free shell eggs, and encourage suppliers to be transparent and innovative in addressing systemic challenges to animal welfare, such as animal housing quality and antibiotic use.

  • We have issued position statements on key animal welfare issues, including the five freedoms, animal housing systems, swine assurance, cage-free eggs and antibiotic use. These position statements were informed by consultations with animal welfare experts and other stakeholders. We ask our suppliers to report to us annually on their adherence to foundational standards, including the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus Program and United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines.
  • We are transitioning our shell egg assortment with an aspiration to achieve a 100% cage-free egg supply chain;97 we report on progress annually.
  • We promote transparency and innovation with our suppliers to address challenging animal welfare issues such as housing and the judicious use of antibiotics.

Key strategies & progress

Setting animal welfare standards | Transitioning our egg assortment | Promoting animal welfare among suppliers

Setting animal welfare standards

In 2015, we published our Animal Welfare Position, which focuses on the Five Freedoms98 of Animal Welfare as an aspiration for animal welfare in our supply chain:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

The position states that we ask suppliers to adhere to animal welfare standards, find and implement solutions to address animal housing systems that lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization (including sow gestation crates and hen battery cages); and to publicly disclose their practices and progress. We expect our suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind, and we ask Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. fresh and frozen meat, deli, dairy and egg suppliers to report to authorities and take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action in any cases of animal abuse.

We have also issued position statements on specific animal welfare issues of concern, including a Swine Assurance Position, Cage-Free Egg Position and Antibiotics in Farm Animals Position. These position statements articulate our aspirations and actions with respect to those issues.

Consistent with these foundational requirements, we require 100% of our shell egg supply in the U.S. to be certified and comply with the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines or equivalent standard and—based on supplier reports—we met that target in each of the last three fiscal years.

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Additionally, our Swine Assurance Position aims to increase transparency and confidence in our fresh pork supply chain in the U.S. through tracking and auditing. We state that Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. will accept fresh pork only from suppliers who abide by the standards of the National Pork Board’s (NPB) Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus Program. Under this program, suppliers are required to 1) have on-farm video monitoring of sow farms and are subject to unannounced animal welfare video audits by accredited and independent third parties; 2) implement an internal annual animal welfare audit for all farms that includes a grading system and corrective action tracking; 3) ensure that key management personnel, including any that handle pigs, are PQA Plus Certified; and 4) participate in the NPB third-party verification pool. We ask suppliers to report to us on their enrollment in the PQA PLUS Program and sow video monitoring. Based on supplier reports for FY2021, 100% of Walmart U.S. pork suppliers are abiding by the standards of the National Pork Board’s (NPB’s) Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus Program. Additionally, Walmart U.S. fresh pork suppliers implemented sow video monitoring in a manner that was estimated to cover 100% of the pork volume supplied to Walmart U.S.

Transitioning our egg assortment

Animal Welfare

Walmart has set a goal to transition to a 100% cage-free egg supply chain by 2025, subject to regulatory changes and based on available supply, affordability and customer demand.

We have been working towards this objective since 2016 and report our progress annually. In FY2021, cage-free eggs comprised 18% and 30% of total shell egg net sales for Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S., respectively. In addition to promoting cage-free eggs with our customers, we have challenged our egg suppliers to use innovation and best management practices to improve the health and welfare of laying hens, including working toward the production and supply of cost-effective, cage-free egg products. We ask suppliers to report progress through The Sustainability Insight System (THESIS) Index.

We have faced challenges related to costs and policy as we have worked toward this goal. Producing cage-free eggs costs more than producing conventional eggs, and converting conventional production systems to cage-free production systems requires capital. Higher production costs can contribute to higher prices for consumers, with the USDA reporting significantly higher average cage-free egg prices relative to the average price of conventional eggs in the U.S. Studies show that such a difference in price can be an important factor in customer choice. In addition to cost challenges, the industry faces some policy headwinds; while several states have regulations favoring cage-free eggs, at least one state has enacted restrictions requiring grocers participating in the federal food program known as WIC to sell conventional eggs alongside cage-free options.

Acknowledging these challenges, we are commissioning a transition strategy regarding our cage-free eggs goal. In developing and drafting the cage-free eggs transition strategy, we will engage with stakeholders, including, for example, NGOs, suppliers, producer organizations and farmers. A summary of that strategy and a list of the strategies and tools Walmart has used or implemented in the past that are designed to remove barriers to achieving its cage-free eggs goal, as well as those to be implemented in the future, will be published during 2021. This commissioned work will also include sow welfare (with a focus on housing) and broiler chicken welfare assessments.

Promoting animal welfare among suppliers

We also promote transparency and innovation among our meat, dairy and poultry suppliers to address challenging animal welfare issues such as housing and the judicious use of antibiotics.

Sow gestation housing

We have asked suppliers to find and implement housing systems that address concerns associated with gestation crates including lack of sufficient space, enrichment or socialization. To monitor whether they are doing so, we ask Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. suppliers to report on sow management in their supply chains through THESIS.

Alternative practices proposed by NGOs and some state governments to promote animal welfare continue to evolve, creating challenges to establish uniform industry standards. For example, several states have or are putting in place varying regulations limiting the use of sow gestation crates, which would require suppliers to work toward appropriate solutions in their company-owned facilities. As well, capital costs to transition to crate-free housing, group housing or expansion of space per pig may result in increased cost to the consumer, reducing affordability of pork as a key protein. Walmart will continue working with its suppliers to optimize solutions for the animals, suppliers and our customers.

Responsible use of antibiotics

Antibiotics are one of many critical tools used to keep animals healthy, but their misuse may lead to antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult to treat human and animal disease.

As stated in our Antibiotics in Farm Animals Position, antibiotics should be used responsibly to preserve effectiveness in human and veterinary medicine, and we ask Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. fresh and frozen meat, seafood, deli, dairy and egg suppliers to: 1) comply with our food safety standards and all regulatory requirements; 2) adopt and implement judicious use principles (such as the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Voluntary Guidance for Industry #209); 3) eliminate growth promotion uses of all antibiotics; and 4) promote transparency by providing an antibiotics management report to Walmart (through THESIS), and publicly reporting antibiotic use on an annual basis.

Animal Welfare

Challenges

  • Achievement of Walmart’s aspirations is dependent on many actors, including retailers, suppliers, NGOs, and the scientific and academic communities. There are many factors that bear on the pace and scale of change. Research is required to identify barriers to the transition of systems and actions to help overcome them.   
  • Animal welfare decisions are made by evaluating the science and ethics of producing products made of or by animals. This process does not always provide clear solutions to animal welfare challenges and can lead to lack of consensus and diverse approaches among suppliers. 
  • Legal and economic factors bear on the scale and pace of change. Certain jurisdictions require conventional products to be offered to customers; others require the opposite. And the cost of transitioning to methods that promote animal welfare—including transitioning to cage-free eggs and gestation crate-free sow housing—can be very high. Transitioning requires that suppliers be willing and able to adopt and scale new practices where pricing and demand may not immediately support it.  
  • Walmart must offer its customers a range of quality, affordable options at scale. Pricing, availability and demand for cage-free eggs and other products intended to promote the welfare of animals may not support a full and speedy transition. 

Additional resources