SASB: FB-FR-430a.2, FB-FR-430a.3
UN SDG: 12
E | Published: April 21, 2022
We aspire to meet increasing demand for affordable protein while improving animal welfare, including humane treatment of farm animals grounded in the “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare and responsible use of antibiotics.
Key goals & metrics
|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 demand97||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|
17% Walmart U.S.
32% Sam’s Club U.S.
18% Walmart U.S.
20% Walmart 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% Walmart U.S.
100% Sam's Club U.S.
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.
100% Walmart U.S.
100% Sam's Club U.S.
Relevance to our business & society
Customers, suppliers, farmers, veterinarians and NGOs have a shared interest in meeting increasing demand for affordable protein while improving animal welfare — including humane treatment of farm animals as well as responsible use of antibiotics. Our stakeholders 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.
To promote the welfare of animals within our supply chain, Walmart engages suppliers, veterinarians, scientists and animal welfare champions through the following strategies:
- Setting the agenda. In consultation with animal welfare experts, suppliers, and others, we have set an agenda grounded in “the five freedoms of animal welfare.” We engage suppliers in prioritizing opportunities to advance animal welfare.
- Assurance programs. These are programs for suppliers regarding the welfare of hens producing shell eggs (through United Egg Producers or equivalent) and swine (through National Pork Producers Pork Quality Assurance Plus Program).
- Innovation in housing systems. We have asked our suppliers to innovate housing systems with the goal of enhancing animal welfare while maintaining supply of affordable protein for customers. In 2016, we set a goal to transition to 100% cage-free shell eggs in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S.98, and we asked our pork suppliers to find and implement housing systems that address animal welfare concerns including housing systems that lack sufficient space.
- Judicious use of antibiotics. We ask our suppliers to adopt judicious use principles, while continuing to comply with food safety and all regulatory requirements.
Key strategies & progress
Setting the agenda
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
As a foundational expectation, 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 any cases of animal abuse to authorities and take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action.
Consistent with the five freedoms framework, we have asked our suppliers to find and implement solutions to animal welfare challenges, focusing on issues such as antibiotics and housing systems (cage-free shell eggs, gestation crates in pork), and to publicly disclose their practices and progress. In 2021, we commissioned studies to help identify and overcome obstacles to progress in housing systems (focusing on shell eggs and sow gestation crates) and to advancing the welfare of broiler hens.
We also encourage our suppliers to participate in The Sustainability Insight System (THESIS) Index, which includes animal welfare assessments. THESIS is a performance assessment platform developed by The Sustainability Consortium that allows users to benchmark, quantify, and take action on significant sustainability issues within their consumer product supply chains.
Animal welfare assurance programs
We require 100% of our shell egg supply in the U.S. to be certified and compliant with the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines or an equivalent standard.
Our Swine Assurance Position aims to increase transparency and confidence in our fresh pork supply chain in the U.S. through tracking and auditing. The Position states that Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. will accept fresh pork only from suppliers that abide by the standards of the National Pork Board’s (NPB) Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus Program. This program requires suppliers to:
- Implement an internal annual animal welfare audit for all farms that includes a grading system and corrective action tracking
- Ensure that key management personnel, including any that handle pigs, are PQA Plus Certified
- Participate in the NPB third-party verification pool
We ask suppliers to report their enrollment in the PQA Plus Program and sow video monitoring to us every year. Based on supplier reports for FY2022, 100% of Walmart U.S. fresh pork suppliers abided by the standards of the NPB’s PQA Plus Program. Additionally, suppliers representing over 99% of the Walmart U.S. fresh pork volume in FY2022 reported that a portion of farms they source from have implemented sow video monitoring.
Innovation in housing systems
In 2016, Walmart U.S. and Sam's Club U.S. set goals to transition to 100% cage-free egg supply chains by 2025, subject to regulatory changes and based on available supply, affordability and customer demand. In addition to promoting cage-free eggs with our customers, we have challenged our egg suppliers to innovate to improve the health and welfare of laying hens, including working toward the production and supply of cost-effective, cage-free egg products.
In FY2022, cage-free eggs comprised 20% of total shell egg net sales at Walmart U.S. and 36% at Sam’s Club U.S., based on supplier reports; slower progress than we had hoped. At this rate, we are unlikely to meet our 100% cage-free egg supply chains goals by 2025.
To identify ways to accelerate progress, in 2021 we commissioned a third-party review of our transition strategy. The consultant engaged NGOs, animal scientists, suppliers, producer organizations and farmers and reviewed the consumer and policy landscape. The consultant cited several barriers to transitioning to 100% cage-free eggs, including:
- Cost of Production. Cage-free eggs cost more to produce (including capital and operating costs), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows higher shelf prices relative to conventional eggs.
- Affordability and Customer Demand. Many customers rely on eggs as an affordable source of protein and studies suggest they may be reluctant to switch from conventional to cage-free eggs as a result. As a matter of policy, many states do not allow customers to purchase cage-free eggs as part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) (and one state requires grocers participating in WIC to offer both conventional and cage-free eggs).
- Availability. While supply of cage-free eggs currently outpaces demand, one independent analysis suggests producers would need to invest at least $7 billion to expand capacity of cage-free housing systems to supply 100% of the food system commitments for shell eggs by 2025.
To help address these challenges and encourage an increase in cage-free eggs as a percentage of total shell eggs sold, we will invest to lower the shelf price of cage-free eggs at Walmart U.S. and continue to promote cage-free eggs through favorable shelf space allocation and shelf placement. At Sam’s Club U.S., we are transitioning to cage-free eggs in all shell-egg items that are intended for household consumption. The exceptions are pack sizes of five dozen or larger, which are intended to meet the needs of small business members.
Read more: Our Journey Toward 100% Cage-Free Eggs Supply Chain: Progress & Challenges.
Sow gestation housing
We have asked suppliers to find and implement solutions to address concerns regarding housing systems that lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization, such as sow gestation crates. We encourage Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. suppliers to report on sow management in their supply chains through THESIS.
Our commissioned study on sow gestation housing indicated progress has been slow for many reasons. First, suppliers, NGOs, and policy makers often have different views regarding optimal housing for animal welfare (e.g., whether sows in group housing are more susceptible to injury from other animals). Several states have or are putting in place differing regulations regarding the use of sow gestation crates, making it challenging to implement consistent solutions nationally. Second, 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 engaging suppliers and other stakeholders on animal welfare issues, solving for animal welfare, sustainability, affordability and security of supply.
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, and publicly reporting antibiotic use on an annual basis.
- Progress towards our aspirations to improve animal welfare depends on many actors, including retailers, suppliers, producers, scientists and academic institutions.
- Fragmented regulatory regimes also affect our ability to meet certain goals. For example, some jurisdictions require retailers to offer conventional products (e.g., eggs) to customers; others require the opposite. Nine states have enacted laws requiring cage-free egg production and/or egg sales, with implementation dates that range from January 1, 2022 through January 2026. Conversely, 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. Similarly, some jurisdictions require pork producers to ensure certain space dimensions for sow housing; other jurisdictions do not.
- Animal welfare standards can change based on new scientific evidence and tradeoffs (e.g., increased freedom of movement vs. susceptibility to harm from other animals; more space per animal vs. increased land and water use).
- Transitioning animal welfare practices may require suppliers and producers to make significant investments in infrastructure and raise their operating cost, which may result in higher prices on the shelf. Higher prices may disproportionately affect low-income customers who rely on eggs or pork as a source of affordable protein.
- Animal Welfare – Swine Assurance Position
- Animal Welfare Position
- Antibiotics in Farm Animals Position
- Cage-Free Egg Supply Position
- Our Journey Toward 100% Cage-Free Eggs Supply Chain: Progress & Challenges
- Fur Friendly Policy
- Standards for Suppliers
- Walmart Sustainability Hub
- Sustainability Insight System (THESIS) Index
- Product supply chains: Sustainability overview
- Welfare Implications of Gestation Sow Housing
- American Veterinary Medical Association’s Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobials
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Voluntary Guidance for Industry #209