Marks & Spencer (M&S) announced that it has become the first major retailer to source all of its fresh milk from RSPCA Assured dairy farms.
All 37 farms that supply fresh milk to the M&S Milk Pool have achieved RSPCA Assured certification and from today all M&S fresh milk packaging* will carry the RSPCA Assured logo.
The move means that the 150 million pints of milk sold in M&S stores every year will come from farms with the highest animal welfare standards. RSPCA Assured standards cover all aspects of cow welfare associated with milk production including calf rearing, accommodation, health planning, transport, feed and grazing.
M&S has also published the RSPCA Assured assessment reports for each of its Milk Pool supplier farms as part of an interactive online map. The map shows customers where M&S milk is sourced from (by UK country), summary results for each farm and a link to download the full assessment report.
Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, said: “No other retailer has this level of transparency or standards in its dairy supply chain.
“Back in March we faced calls to cut ties with one of our dairy farmers because of a breach of animal welfare regulations. It would have not have been the right thing to do. One of our farmers made a mistake, so instead we worked with the farmer to rectify the issue and took the decision to strengthen our standards by asking an independent to assess all of our dairy farms.
“We know how much animal welfare matters to our customers and that they expect the highest standards from us. RSPCA Assured standards are the highest in the dairy industry and we are proud of our farmers who work hard day-in-day-out to enable us to achieve this for our Milk Pool.”
Clive Brazier, Chief Executive Officer of RSPCA Assured, said: “Thanks to M&S thousands more dairy cows will now have a better life reared to RSPCA welfare standards. And not only that but, for the first time ever, consumers will be able to buy RSPCA Assured labeled milk in a high street retailer.
“This is a major step forward for improving dairy cow welfare and we hope other retailers will follow suit.”
The 37 farms that supply fresh milk to M&S, known as the M&S Milk Pool, were visited by RSPCA assessors during April, May and June. They checked 332 standards on each visit. The average number of non-compliances (industry term for a standard not being met) was two per farm, meaning on average 99% of standards were met. 14 farms met all the standards when assessed with most of the remaining farms only needing to make a small number of changes to achieve full compliance. All non-compliances were corrected by mid-July, giving every M&S Milk Pool farm supplier RSPCA Assured status.
Two farms had over 10 non-compliances and both have been visited by M&S to support them in addressing the issues. Both had corrected all non-compliances by the end of May.
Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, continued: “RSPCA Assured standards are the toughest in the business. We’ve supported those farms that had work to do to achieve them, but I’m pleased to say every farmer has stepped up and delivered everything we and RSPCA Assured has asked of them.”
The M&S Milk Pool was set up in 2000 to give M&S farmers the stability to enable them to invest for the future. At the time it was an industry first and today has 37 farms spread across the UK delivering regionally sourced fresh milk into M&S stores and cafés. M&S pays its pool farmers a price above the cost of production and one of the highest prices of any high-street store or supermarket.
RSPCA welfare standards are now the minimum standards for the M&S Milk Pool and RSPCA Assured assessors will assess the farms annually. In addition they will be subject to unannounced visits from the RSPCA’s Farm Livestock Officers. Farms will also receive a twice-yearly audit from M&S assessors and are also required to be Red Tractor Assured.