At Albertsons Companies, we strive to maintain high animal welfare standards across all areas of our business. Animal welfare programs and policies are managed by senior members of our sourcing team, who participate in our Animal Well-Being Advisory Council and Sustainability Council. Our Animal Well-Being Advisory Council is made up of experts from academia and industry. These experts guide us in setting sound, science-based animal welfare policies and identifying opportunities for continuous improvement. We value their support and counsel on the humane treatment of animals.
We believe that the farm animals in our supply chain deserve to be treated humanely during every chapter of their lives. We are committed to the “five freedoms” as stated by the Farm Animal Welfare Council:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
- Freedom from Discomfort
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
- Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
- Freedom from Fear and Distress
Not only do we support the “five freedoms,” but we continue to work with our suppliers to ensure that they are adopted and implemented.
As a grocer, providing what our customers want is at the heart of all the decisions we make. Simply put, we want to run really great stores where customers love to shop and can find the products they want, and part of that philosophy includes responsibly increasing the quantity of pork we source from vendors that have made commitments to transitioning to group-housed systems for their breeding sows. As our company has grown, we have also expanded the availability and quantity of our Open Nature® pork products, which come exclusively from group-housed sow sources.
These issues are at the core of our responsible business practices, and we work to continuously improve the positive impact we have. We are pleased to have been one of the first retailers to commit to exclusively sourcing cage-free shell and liquid eggs by 2025. All liquid and shell eggs in our O Organics® and Open Nature brands are already cage-free and are certified to meet humane standards for animal treatment. In 2020, 29% of our liquid and shell eggs and 100% of our Own Brands hard-boiled eggs sold in our stores were cage-free. We are actively working with our supply chain to expedite the transition and also exploring ways to educate our customers about these products.
Albertsons Companies is committed to ensuring high animal care standards for broiler chickens. We lean on animal-science experts for policy guidance and on suppliers to make the best decisions for the animals they are raising and handling. Our welfare audits focus on outcome-based results, ensuring animals are properly cared for and that our products meet our high quality standards.
As we work to maintain a spirit of continuous improvement in our sourcing program, Albertsons Companies will engage with our suppliers to continue to improve broiler chicken housing and animal handling methods to ensure high welfare outcomes are achieved. We will encourage suppliers to adopt animal-science based best practices that include requirements for topics such as stocking density, enrichments, stunning and third-party auditing.
Across our diverse portfolio of fresh products, we leverage well-known animal welfare standards and work to ensure welfare programs and requirements align with the latest animal science. We are aiming to increase the volume of certified options and aim to have at least 50% of our O Organics fresh chicken supply chain certified to GAP-3 standards by 2024. Please visit the GAP website for more information on the criteria for their standards.
Today, our GAP-3 Certified O Organics chicken prohibits the use of broiler cages, has a maximum stocking density of 6 lbs. per square foot, includes enriched environments and utilizes Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) systems. GAP-3 Certified O Organics chicken is currently available in many of our stores and all of our operating areas offer a range of options, including other certified products that adhere to welfare standards such as reduced stocking density, prohibition of broiler cages, and 3rd party auditing.
We require all of our dairy suppliers to be certified to the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care standards or a more stringent equivalent. This means our dairy suppliers are committed to quality farm management practices as well as safe, wholesome dairy products. We joined the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and the Dairy Sustainability Alliance to advance the efforts of the dairy community by sharing best practices and improving accountability within the industry.
We conduct annual humane handling audits through our own internal Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) Certified auditor on our Own Brand vendors in addition to requiring our fresh beef and pork suppliers to have 3rd party validation on-file of meeting North American Meat Institute (NAMI) Standards for Humane Handling guidelines. We are a member of the North American Meat Institute as well as a member of the Pork Retail Advisory Committee, which meets at least once a year to review relevant industry issues, including animal well-being.
We expect our suppliers to manage the use of antibiotics in accordance with FDA guidance documents 209, 213 and 152, and the American Veterinary Medical Association Judicious Use Guidelines. Suppliers that do not adhere to local, state, and federal laws or the guidance listed above when using antibiotics, feed additives and/or supplements are excluded from our program. Albertsons Companies participated in an industry-wide working group led by Pew Research Center to create an antibiotic stewardship framework to guide the judicious use of antibiotics in animals, and we recommend our suppliers adopt and implement an antibiotic stewardship program.
Customers interested in products that are free from antibiotics and added growth hormones can learn more about our O Organics and Open Nature brands here. We invite customers to learn more about our welfare requirements across various product categories in our Meat Guidelines.