Agriculture

As Partners, we are passionate about every step of the food supply chain - from field to fork - and we take pride in the long-term relationships we have with the farmers who rear and grow the food we eat. 


Animal welfare, farming practices, and their impact on our global climate, are of increasing concern and importance to the Partnership. Changes to agricultural policy post Brexit add to this complexity. However, we remain as committed as ever to leading in this sphere, improving and encouraging sustainable and ethical farming methods and farming with nature wherever possible. We believe our farming partnerships and sustainable farming practices will be key to our future success.

OUR STRATEGY

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The Waitrose Agricultural Strategy does not stop at farming sustainably. Our bold ambition is to introduce regenerative farming techniques as widely as possible. We aim to adopt and encourage soil improvement and enhancement of the natural environment through restorative land management focused on topsoil regeneration, improving the water cycle, and also increasing carbon capture, biodiversity and resilience to climate change. In October 2020 we launched our commitment to make greenhouse gas emissions from our UK farms net zero by 2035.

ANIMAL WELFARE

We believe animal welfare and good business go hand in hand, because our customers rely on us to do the right thing. Applying high welfare standards throughout an animal’s life is vital to ensuring the quality of the meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fish products that we sell have the very highest standards.

 

Waitrose is recognised as one of the top five companies in the world with respect to farm animal welfare standards, as confirmed for the sixth consecutive year by the Global Business Benchmark on farm animal welfare. We also participate in the Compassion in World Farming Awards scheme, through which we maintain our position as the leading retailer in Europe for farm animal welfare. 

View our animal welfare awards.

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Our approach to animal welfare

FOOD SYSTEMS AND CLIMATE IMPACT

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The impact of climate change on food production, the changes to production methods in order to end farming’s role as a key driver of greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to develop protein diversification are among the challenges we face. The latter is especially difficult. As science tells us - with increasing urgency - we must reduce our dietary reliance on meat and embrace more plant based alternatives, and the developed world faces a dilemma. Currently there are no clear plans for how livestock farmers can adapt to these production changes with existing business models. Food producers must urgently tackle these obstacles to truly nature-friendly food systems. Our Waitrose Agricultural Strategy will enable us to start facing a number of these challenges head-on and enable us to help create a more sustainable food system.

BIODIVERSITY

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Biodiversity is critical to maintaining the natural ecosystem that safeguards food security worldwide. Overapplication of pesticides and unsustainable land use, means plants, animals, and microorganisms that pollinate, clean our air, and fertilise our soil are being lost with devastating consequences, putting global food security at risk. At Waitrose, we want to ensure our food is produced in a way that preserves and even enhances key natural resources, and we are conscious that maintaining and increasing biodiversity is essential. The Waitrose Agriculture Strategy sets out our commitment to farm with nature, enhance biodiversity, and regenerate the environment we rely on. 

 

We are already making strides within the Waitrose fresh produce category to protect biodiversity. At present, we are the only UK retailer to insist all our conventional UK (non organic) fresh fruit and vegetables are grown to Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) standards, with minimal pesticide and herbicide use, with a focus on nature-friendly and biologically diverse farming. All our fresh produce growers complete a Waitrose Farm Assessment each year, part of which encourages farmers and growers to set aside farm land to enhance biodiversity. 

 

In our dairy supply chains, all farmers are encouraged to devote at least 10% of their dairy farm to biodiversity and habitat management. We encourage planting mixed lays, including legumes such as red or white clover, which is nutritious for cows and also beneficial for bees. 

 

Our Waitrose egg farmers have used a seed mix to plant over 100 acres of wild flowers to provide much-needed food for bees and butterflies which, in turn, provide food for farmland birds. The summer flowering of these wild flowers will offer a rich nectar food source for up to four years.