Cows will now be guaranteed at least 100 days of outside grazing each year on all farms supplying Waitrose in the UK supermarket’s latest move away from dairy factory farming.
The latest announcement comes in response to concerns from animal welfare groups about the rise of mega dairies which apply controversial ‘zero grazing’.
It is not unheard of for cows on milk factories to spend their entire productive lives inside, with little human contact and often being milked by machine.
Waitrose is already one of the only supermarkets to give its dairy cows access to pasture during the grazing season in the summer months. The new pledge sets a minimum standard for its British farmers, strengthening its commitment to animal welfare and ensuring a level of consistency across its dairy farms.
The milk is produced exclusively for Waitrose by a pool of 50 dairy farms in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Somerset and Devon.
The dairy cattle graze on pastures through the summer and during winter they are housed in well ventilated barns with clean, dry and comfortable bedding and fed on a forage-based diet of grass or maize silage.
Heather Jenkins, Waitrose director of Agriculture and Meat, Fish and Dairy Buying said:
“We’ve always required our farmers to graze their dairy herds outside but this move puts in place a minimum benchmark of at least 100 days a year. We’re proud of our commitment and proud of our dairy farmers for the support they have given us with this move to a formal standard.
“Getting dairy cows outside and on grass pasture whenever possible not only produces great quality milk but is a key aspect of good animal welfare, something we believe is of the utmost importance.”
The commitment builds on Waitrose’s strong record in animal welfare which most recently saw it confirmed as a Tier One leader in the global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare for the second year running.
The supermarket also won Compassion in World Farming’s Good Dairy Award in 2011 and the CiWF Retailer of the Year award for the sixth time in 2015.
Philip Lymbery, Compassion’s chief executive, said:
“As the only major retailer who ensures that all their cows are allowed seasonal grazing, I have nothing but praise for Waitrose on their milk commitment.
“Waitrose remains one of the leaders in the proverbial herd, when it comes to their liquid milk. I think that most consumers presume that all dairy cows are allowed out on pasture. Sadly, this simply isn’t the case. In terms of dairy cow welfare, Waitrose delivers what its customers expect and what the cows need to live a happier, healthier life.”
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