Sprouts Farmers Market, a leading grocery chain with 360 stores in 23 states, has announced a major animal welfare reform. The grocer has released an animal welfare commitment after two years of ongoing discussions with animal welfare groups.
The commitment to animal welfare comes as the chain has won awards in recent years for its sustainability measures. Central to the announcement is the providing of meaningful and measurable sourcing standards for the chickens raised for consumption in Sprout Farmers Market’s own brand fresh chicken, one-pan meals, full-service case and roasted deli offering.
The August 17 news comes a week after the announcement of a U.S. Working Group for Broiler Welfare by seven of the nation’s leading food and restaurant companies.
“At Sprouts we believe that bettering animal welfare is a key part of good business,” as the company describes its Animal Welfare mission. “We recognize our responsibility to ensure the welfare of farm animals throughout our supply chain with respect to their physical, behavioral and mental well-being. We are working to establish and implement meaningful animal welfare standards across our meat supply chain.”
Sprouts’ plan is to move in three major phases: providing enrichments by 2024, reducing stocking density by 2025, and allowing for more humane slaughter through controlled-atmosphere stunning by 2026. Sprouts also recognizes “the welfare issues experienced by conventional breeds of chickens raised for meat” and will continue to explore how to adopt higher welfare breeds.
Sprouts said it will verify each of these components in the commitment with an annual third-party auditing and will annually disclose the progress shown.
“We also recognize the welfare issues experienced by conventional breeds of chickens raised for meat production and will monitor developments as research continues to evolve,” per the company. “We will continue to look for ways to adopt higher-welfare breeds in our supply chain.”
Provisions for pork, laying hens and dairy cattle are also included in the commitment. Sprouts said that it only sources whole pork products from suppliers that use open-pen or group-housed facilities. The company said it is transitioning to 100% cage-free eggs by 2022 and has encouraged all of its dairy suppliers, including for private brand, to “support industry-wide efforts to promote the humane treatment of cattle, including responsible polled breeding practices.”
Compassion in World Farming is the group central to the broiler chicken commitment. Since 1967, the organization has worked closely with companies, policymakers, and the public to drive large-scale and meaningful improvements for farmed animals.
“There is now real momentum in the movement for improving broiler chicken welfare,” said Ben Williamson, US executive director of Compassion in World Farming. “Sprouts has been working with our technical experts for at least two years to ensure its commitment will improve broiler chicken welfare ‘meaningfully and measurably.’ This approach is indicative of a company that wants to deliver on its promises.”
Other grocery store chains that have committed to similar chicken welfare standards include Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, and Thrive Market.