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Sainsbury, a mega UK grocer and retailer, has introduced a new animal welfare standard for dairy farmers, addressing consumer concerns about the issue, according to

The retailer is working with its dairy farmers to achieve the highest standards of cow welfare. Through its support for investments and initiatives on farm, Sainsbury’s is sharing the responsibility and cost of further welfare improvements with its dairy farmers, the report quoted Mansel Raymond, National Farmers Union dairy board chairman, as saying.

The Mintel report, Food Provenance UK April 2010, identified animal welfare as consumers’ number one concern.

Sainsbury’s claims that the new welfare standard will improve significantly the lives of 55,000 UK cows that produce 470 million litres of fresh milk and 90 million litres of milk for cheese for the retailer each year, the report said.

A spokesperson for the company was quoted saying that the welfare standard was unique because its Outcome Approach measured the overall health and welfare of the cow rather than simply the facilities in which it was housed.

The standard highlights nine key welfare areas: Mastitis; infectious disease; nutrition; housing; calves and young stock; transport and movement; breeding and genetics; training but identifies lameness as the top priority. “Improving lameness is a key objective, the industry average is in excess of 40%, and the retailer aims to achieve 5% by 2012,” the company said.

The welfare standard has been developed over the past three years with the company’s 334 dairy producers who form the Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group (SDDG).

SDDG producers receive 2.1 pence per litre premium for their milk above the market price, which is designed to reward farmers for good agricultural practice. The payment builds to an average of £26,000 (NZ$59,000) per farmer, per year.

The company says it has invested more than £15m in the SDDG since 2006 and plans to invest a further £40m over the next three years. It claims to have facilitated a £1.66m improvement in animal health profitability across the SDDG, which equates to over £5,000 per farmer in the past year.

Sainsbury’s is one of Britain’s biggest milk retailers and accounts for 18% of all sales, the report said.


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