The views that food companies hold about their responsibilities for animal welfare can strongly influence the lives and welfare of farm animals. If a company's commitment is translated into action, it can be a major driver of animal welfare. The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) is an annual evaluation of farm animal welfare-related practices, reporting and performance of food companies. The framework evaluates how close, based on their disclosures, companies are to best practice in three areas: Management Commitment, Governance & Performance and Leadership & Innovation. The BBFAW analysed information published by 68 (2012) and 70 (2013) of the world's largest food companies. Around 70% of companies acknowledged animal welfare as a business issue. Between 2012 and 2013, the mean BBFAW score increased significantly by 5% (p < 0.001, Wilcoxon Signed-Rank test). However, only 34% (2012) and 44% (2013) of companies published comprehensive animal welfare policies. This increase suggests that global food companies are increasingly aware that farm animal welfare is of interest to their stakeholders, but also that many companies have yet to acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue or to demonstrate their approach to farm animal welfare to stakeholders and society.
Keywords: CSR; animal welfare; farm animals; global food companies; risk management.