Animal Welfare

Rearing livestock well and ensuring that high welfare standards apply throughout the animal’s life are vital to ensuring the quality of the meat and fish we sell. 

We work closely with our UK farmers to ensure all the livestock that provides the meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish products we sell are reared to the very highest welfare standards. Waitrose is also the only UK supermarket to operate its own farm, the Leckford Estate supplying our Waitrose shops with flour, cox cider, apple juice, sparkling wine, apples, pears, mushrooms, and rapeseed oil.


The John Lewis Partnership Ethics and Sustainability Committee, which includes Directors of both Waitrose & Partners and John Lewis & Partners, has oversight of our ethics & sustainability strategy and priority issues, including animal welfare. This ensures it is monitored at the highest level.

Ethics & Sustainability Governance

A Snapshot of Our UK Farms

Building strong relationships with people inside and outside our business is key to delivering our vision for sustainability and ethics and long-term business success. We respect the interests people touched by our business – our Partners (our employees), customers, suppliers and the wider community. It is important we listen and respond to their concerns, are honest in our expectations and fair in how we communicate our performance.


Broiler chickens

  • 89 Indoor broiler farms
  • 25 Free-range broiler farms
  • 44 Organic broiler farms
  • 24,759,000 Indoor broiler chickens reared
  • 1,891,900 Free-range chickens reared
  • 2,278,900 Organic chickens reared


  • 68 Free-range egg farms
  • 10,776,888 Dozen free-range eggs
  • 25 Organic egg farms
  • 3,104,060 Dozen organic eggs


  • 342 Conventional sheep farms
  • 218,552 Conventional lambs produced
  • 100 Organic sheep farms
  • 39,893 Organic lambs produced


  • 31 Indoor farms
  • 125,772 Indoor reared turkeys produced
  • 23 Free-range farms
  • 125,358 Free-range turkeys produced
  • 4 Organic farms
  • 21,545 Organic turkeys produced

Veal & Venison

  • 85 Venison farms
  • 8,999 Deer reared annually
  • 1 Veal farm
  • 2,761 Calves reared annually

Dairy goats (milk)

  • 2 Farms
  • 1,095,178 Litres of milk annually



  • 165 Conventional salmon farms
  • 1,507,974 Conventional salmon
  • 74,754 Seawater rainbow trout
  • 36,384 Freshwater rainbow trout
  • 1 Organic seabass farm supplying 89,476 seabass
  • 188 tn Halibut
  • 10 Organic salmon farms
  • 174,061 Organic salmon
  • 1 Freshwater trout farm supplying 801,300 trout
  • 11 Seabream farms supplying 425,088 seabream
  • 12 Conventional seabass farms supplying 1,905,873 seabass


Pork (UK)

  • 39 Free-range finishing farms
  • 167,549 Free-range pigs produced
  • 4 Organic farms
  • 18,787 Organic pigs produced
  • 158 Indoor finishing farms
  • 393,418 Pigs finished in indoor straw based barns

Pork (EU)

  • 178 Indoor farms producing 11,063 sows and 297,950 finishers
  • 9 Free-range farms producing 800 sows and 8,050 finishers



  • 421 Conventional beef farms
  • 77,894 Conventional cattle produced
  • 86 Organic beef farms
  • 6,280 Organic cattle produced

Dairy cows (milk)

  • Organic farms producing 18,768,086 litres of milk annually
  • 31 Conventional farms producing 93,874,097 litres of milk annually

The Universal Five Freedoms

The universal five freedoms form the core of our animal welfare standards, but we are always looking at ways of developing and going beyond these:


  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  2. Freedom from discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease – by prevention of illness or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to express normal behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Our Policies and Performance

Our animal welfare policy, key performance indicators (KPIs) and performance are shown below. 

Performance is monitored by ourselves, our farmers and our processors and is extremely important to the Partnership, which is why we work with farmers we know and trust and who share our values.

The Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (Qba)

We recognise that as sentient beings, animals have the ability to feel pain and experience positive emotions such as joy and pleasure. As such, whilst we currently capture a breadth of welfare outcome measures, we feel it is the right time to explore further measures such as those underpinning the freedom to express positive emotions. We have been actively working with independent industry experts including academics, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and animal welfare specialists to develop an extended list of outcome measures for each supply chain.


In 2018 Waitrose agriculture experts, independent specialists, and suppliers together formed the Waitrose Animal Welfare Development Group. Formation of this group has led to a partnership with Professor Francoise Wemelsfelder from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) who has been developing a welfare tool she calls Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA). 

The QBA system allows us to equip our field teams – the people who go out on the farm, day in and day out – with a virtual toolkit app to record animal behaviours identified as being indicative of emotional wellbeing. The QBA system has been licensed for trial by Waitrose and in February 2021, was rolled out to field teams assessing Waitrose farms. Find out more here.

On Land and at Sea

In our UK land-based livestock supply chains, Waitrose’s welfare requirements extend beyond basic Red Tractor Assurance with bespoke, independently verified standards to which farmers must adhere. Close confinement systems, including farrowing crates and caged hens, are not used, and stocking densities are lower than the industry average across the supply chain. Journey times are much shorter than the legal maximum, with Waitrose implementing maximum travel time requirements for some supply chains. We conduct our own assessments of farm management practices, and farms are independently audited by the relevant assurance schemes, supplemented by our own bespoke standards. Our hauliers undergo livestock handling and welfare training, and our slaughter sites are regularly reviewed by the Humane Slaughter Association.


All our farmed fish suppliers, irrespective of geographic location, are certified to a recognised third party standard such as Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Global Gap, Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices, RSPCA and organic certification. We ensure all staff are welfare trained. Additionally, all salmon, loch grown trout, sea bass and bream farms are assessed through our own Responsible Efficient Production Index (REP). The results of these assessments are closely monitored and, when necessary, acted upon to maintain standards. 


All supply chains are committed to eradicating on-farm mutilation with procedures such as fish fin clipping forbidden, and pig tail docking only permitted with veterinary recommendation. We are committed to finding alternatives to all forms of livestock mutilation.


Production is kept as natural as possible by providing environmental and social enrichment. We use a high forage diet for ruminant species and make sure dairy cows in our free range milk pool graze for at least 183 days out of the year.

Our Senior Agriculture Manager and Aquaculture and Fisheries Managers, in conjunction with the Waitrose Farming Partnership Livestock Steering Group (WFP LSG) and the Waitrose Farming Partnership Fish Forum (WFP FF), are charged with the overall responsibility for animal welfare in our supply chain. Members of the LSG and FF are all livestock or seafood experts from Waitrose and its dedicated suppliers, and our technical team has significant animal welfare training. Courses completed by our in-house team include Bristol University’s Poultry and Animal Welfare Officer training and the University of Highlands and Islands’ course on Fish Welfare.

Case Study

Animal welfare for continental meat

In another example of its industry-leading approach to animal welfare, Waitrose announced this year that all its own-brand Italian continental meat is now produced to higher animal welfare standards.


The certification of Italian continental meat means that shoppers can enjoy Waitrose Parma ham, mortadella and prosciutto knowing the Italian animals it came from have lived free from confinement, with more room to roam and socialise and with deep straw bedding to root around in.

Traditionally, animal welfare standards for continental meat have lagged behind those of British meats.

However, a long-term partnership between Waitrose and its supplier, the Compleat Food Group, the first Italian meat producer to win Compassion in World Farming’s Good Pig Award back in 2016, has demonstrated its ongoing commitment by rolling out the higher standards across all Italian producers.

Waitrose is already confinement-free in UK farming and, in support of its Cage Free Award from Compassion in World Farming, it has a target to achieve the same for all its continental meats by 2025, including prohibiting sow stalls and farrowing crates. It is now well over 50% of the way to reaching that goal.



"We are encouraged by the steps Waitrose is taking to improve the welfare of pigs in its continental meat supply. It highlights the importance of working closely with producers, giving them the confidence and support to invest in cage-free systems, to ensure a successful transition across the business."

Louise Valducci
Head of Food Business (Europe), Compassion in World Farming