General Mills expands animal welfare policy

Company extends "five freedoms" policy to all animals across its supply chain.

General Mills released July 7 an updated global policy statement on animal welfare, which it said outlines the company’s beliefs and policies to support animal welfare throughout its global supply chain.

Steve Peterson, director of sustainable sourcing at General Mills, said that the newly updated policy statement is grounded in the company’s long-sought support for the humane treatment of animals in agriculture, but it also establishes a few new or expanded commitments.

“As a company we have long recognized the global standard of ‘five freedoms’ for dairy cows, including freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; discomfort; pain, injury and disease; fear and distress; and engage in normal patterns of animal behavior. Moving forward, we are committing to achieve these ‘five freedoms’ for all animals across our supply chain,” said Peterson.

Additionally, the company announced it is working toward 100% cage free eggs for its U.S. operations.

Peterson said that the supply challenges due to avian influenza will likely make the cage free commitment challenging, but he said the company see it as a long-term goal that will require unparalleled collaboration.

“We’ll work closely with our suppliers as they rebuild the supply chain to determine a path forward on this commitment,” he said. Currently the company sources free range eggs for all of its Häagen-Dazs ice cream in Europe.

Lastly, Peterson said the company is expanding its work to understand and address other animal welfare issues like pain relief during castration and tail docking in pork production, and complications during the fast growth of broiler chickens and turkeys.

These changes add to already established company policy that addressed issues like rBST, caged hens, sow housing and antibiotic use.

In the U.S., General Mills’ Yoplait was the first leading yogurt company to source only milk produced by cows not treated with the synthetic growth hormone rBST. General Mills’ Häagen-Dazs ice cream in Europe is also produced using only cream and milk from cows not treated with rBST.

General Mills said it is working to understand the issues of pain relief for dairy cows including de-horning, tail docking, and castration.

“General Mills supports the use of polled genetics breeding programs to promote polled or naturally hornless cattle, thereby eliminating the need for dehorning,” the company website states. “This approach has demonstrated success in the beef industry and we support a similar approach in the dairy industry. General Mills encourages all suppliers in our dairy supply chain to support industry-wide efforts that promote the humane treatment of cattle, including the responsible polled breeding practices.”

Until dehorning is eliminated, however, General Mills said it supports the adoption of best management practices, including procedure timing and use of analgesics and/or anesthetics.

In regards to sow housing, General Mills committed in 2013 to favor pork suppliers that provide actionable plans by 2017 to create traceability and end the use of gestation crates within the U.S. pork supply chain.  


In terms of antibiotic use in food animal production, General Mills said it does not support routine use of antibiotic drugs to promote growth in livestock and that such drugs “should be used only as necessary and appropriate to maintain the health of animals.

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