Animal Welfare

SASB: FB-FR-430a.2, FB-FR-430a.3
UN SDG: 12

E | Published: May 19, 2023

Animal Welfare - Lead Image

Our Aspiration

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 demand1 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 Walmart U.S.: 18%
Sam's Club U.S.: 30%
Walmart U.S.: 20%
Sam's Club U.S.: 36%
Walmart U.S.: 21%
Sam's Club U.S.: 41%
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 Walmart U.S.: 100%
Sam's Club U.S.: 100%
Walmart U.S.: 100%
Sam's Club U.S.: 100%
Walmart U.S.: 100%
Sam's Club U.S.: 100%
Percentage of Walmart U.S. and Sam's Club U.S. fresh pork suppliers abiding by the standards of the National Pork Board’s (NPB’s) Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus Program, based on supplier reports Walmart U.S.: 100%
Sam's Club U.S.: 100%
Walmart U.S.: 100%
Sam's Club U.S.: 100%
Walmart U.S.: 100%
Sam's Club U.S.: 100%

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. 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 that support public health.

Walmart's Approach

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. We leverage industry programs overseeing the welfare of hens producing shell eggs (United Egg Producers or equivalent) and swine (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.2 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 | Assurance Programs | Innovation in Housing Systems | Judicious Use of Antibiotics

Setting the Agenda

In 2015, we published our Animal Welfare Position, which focuses on the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare as an aspiration for 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

As a foundational expectation, we expect our suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind and 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—and to publicly disclose their practices and progress. In 2021, we commissioned studies to help identify and overcome obstacles to progress in housing systems (in particular, for laying hens eggs and sows) and to advance the welfare of broiler hens.

For more information, see Housing below.

We also encourage our suppliers to participate in The Sustainability Insight System (THESIS) Index 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.

Read more below and in our position statements: Swine Assurance PositionCage-Free Egg Position and Antibiotics in Farm Animals Position.

Animal Welfare Assurance Programs

Laying hens. Our Cage-Free Egg Supply Position sets foundational expectations for laying hens, including stating our requirement that 100% of our shell egg supply in the U.S. must be certified and compliant with the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines or an equivalent standard. Requirements include non-feed withdrawal molt methods; guidelines on beak trimming, handling, and euthanasia; requirements for cage-free systems; and third-party audits.

Swine. 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. Requirements of PQA Plus Program include:

  • Internal site assessments of the facility, animals, caretakers, and records, which must be conducted at least quarterly on sow farms and semiannually on nursery and finishing farms
  • Requirements that all caretakers must become PQA Plus Certified within 90 days of employment and maintain certification while employed 
  • Requirements that caretakers must receive and be able to articulate training specific to their daily duties as detailed in the farm’s written standard operating procedures and receive retraining annually 
  • Validation of caretaker understanding of training and the farm’s standard operating procedures obtained through caretaker interviews or direct observation of practices

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 FY2023, 100% of Walmart U.S. fresh pork suppliers abided by the standards of the NPB’s PQA Plus Program. Additionally, in FY2023, suppliers representing over 99.9% of the Walmart U.S. fresh pork volume and 100% of the Sam's Club fresh pork volume reported that a portion of farms they source from have implemented sow video monitoring.

Innovation in Housing Systems

Animal Welfare - Free range chicken grazing on the farm

Cage-Free Eggs

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.

Since setting this goal, Walmart U.S. and Sam's Club U.S. have taken a number of steps to promote cage-free eggs. In FY2023, we made investments 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; for instance, placing cage-free eggs prominently at eye level. We have also chosen to drive our commitment through our private brand eggs; for example, at Sam’s Club U.S. we are transitioning to cage-free eggs in all shell-egg items that are intended for household consumption, keeping cage-free eggs cost-competitive relative to national brands. Progress was accelerated by the many Sam’s Club U.S. locations which stock Members Mark 100% cage-free shell eggs that are intended for household consumption.

To identify ways to accelerate progress towards our cage-free egg goals, 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Affordability and customer demand. Many customers rely on eggs as an affordable source of protein. 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); additionally, one state requires grocers participating in WIC to offer both conventional and cage-free eggs).
  3. Availability. While the supply of cage-free eggs currently outpaces demand, one independent analysis suggests producers would need to invest at least $7 billion to expand the capacity of cage-free housing systems to supply 100% of the food system commitments for shell eggs by 2025.

Despite these efforts, we are not currently on track to meet the 2025 goal of 100% cage-free eggs. In FY2023, cage-free eggs comprised 21% of total shell egg net sales at Walmart U.S. and 41% at Sam’s Club U.S., based on supplier reports —slower progress than we had hoped.

Read More: Our Journey Toward 100% Cage-Free Eggs Supply Chain: Progress & Challenges.

Sow 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.

Progress has been slow for two 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 the affordability of pork as a protein, a particular concern in an inflationary environment in which consumers are price-sensitive.

Walmart will continue engaging suppliers and other stakeholders on animal welfare issues, solving for animal welfare, sustainability, affordability, and security of supply. Currently, we are engaging suppliers and experts on sow gestation and other animal welfare issues and will determine whether we need to update policies or practices.

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 diseases.

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. As of 2022, 46% of our Walmart U.S. fresh and frozen beef, fresh and frozen pork, fresh and frozen poultry, shell egg, and fluid diary milk supply by product net sales is covered by suppliers reporting on antibiotic use through THESIS.3


  • Progress toward 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 animal welfare goals. For example, some jurisdictions require retailers to offer conventional products (e.g., eggs) to customers; others require the opposite.  Ten states have enacted laws requiring cage-free egg production and/or egg sales, with compliance dates that range from present through July 2026.  Conversely, at least one state has enacted restrictions requiring grocers participating in the federal food program known as WIC and offering cage-free eggs to also maintain an offer of conventional eggs. 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 trade-offs (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.

About Our Reporting

Additional Resources


1. See discussion of our progress in the Innovation in housing systems section.

2. Subject to regulatory changes and based on available supply, affordability and customer demand.

3. Figure does not include deli meat or processed meat in frozen value-added items. The Walmart U.S. product net sales figure used for the calculation includes the product net sales for the previous four quarters (Q3 of FY2022 through Q2 of FY2023). Suppliers reported in THESIS on their antibiotic use for calendar year 2022.