Sustainable farming

A variety of issues have surfaced amongst global food businesses more prominently in recent years. These include food scandals, tightening regulatory and investor concerns on welfare and food safety and consumer interest in issues of food quality, safety, provenance and traceability. This has led to growing attention on the issue of farm animal welfare and the fragility of the food systems we rely on to feed a growing global population.

Efficiency and economic and environmental sustainability lie at the heart of Waitrose's agriculture strategy and our Farming Partnership. This partnership consists of three groups of suppliers whose objective is to future-proof farming businesses – The Agronomy Group, The Livestock Steering Group and The Fish Forum. Each group is tasked with implementing programmes that contribute to a more sustainable future for UK farms and elsewhere.  Find out more about our approach to responsible aquaculture.

two chickens outdoors

Leading the industry

We want Waitrose customers to know that the meat and animal produce they buy is sourced from animals reared to the highest standards of care and welfare by farmers who share our values. This is supported by our supply structure - one that consists of a select group of dedicated producers, many of whom have long standing relationships with us. Having fewer suppliers enables us to be confident that food is produced to the highest standards of welfare and quality.

Our Agriculture Manager, in conjunction with the Waitrose Farming Partnership Livestock Steering Group (WFP-LSG) has overall responsibility for animal welfare in the Waitrose supply chain. The Steering Group comprises livestock experts from Waitrose and its dedicated suppliers. Regular farm-level welfare performance reports, verified by third parties are presented to the group so that improvement plans can be carried out where required.

One of our Farming Partnership sub-groups is the Responsible Health Group. This consists of representatives of every livestock business and their lead veterinarian.

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) is the first global measure of company performance on this issue. Since launching in 2012 it has positively influenced corporate practices on animal welfare management and reporting. We are proud that Waitrose has been in the top tier of the global BBFAW for three years, maintaining our leadership position in 2016. We openly shared our animal welfare protocols, outcomes and KPIs on our website (, as we believe that openness is key to addressing customer and NGO and driving welfare standards across the sector. Transparency will be an increasing feature of the landscape going forward.

'Waitrose is doing what's right for dairy cow welfare and delivering what its customers expect. We would encourage more retailers to follow their lead.'
Jemima Jewel, Compassion in World Farming

Grazing pledge

In February 2016, we announced our 100 day grazing pledge. This requires that cattle supplying us with milk and cream has grazed outdoors for a minimum of 100 days. From 2017 we are increasing this pledge to 120 days. During 2016 our conventional dairy farmers grazed their cattle for an average of 167 days as some farmers have, in the right conditions, been able to keep cattle outdoors for significantly more than the minimum required.

The move was commended by Compassion in World Farming - Jemima Jewel, Head of Food Business said, 'Waitrose is doing what's right for dairy cow welfare and delivering what its customers expect. We would encourage more retailers to follow their lead.'