In case you still have doubts that retailers will increasing expect more responsibility from their suppliers, more evidence surfaced again this week. Safeway officials announced that the grocery chain will set new policies to work with pork and poultry suppliers that prioritize animal welfare.
Fact is, this action is in response to discussions between Safeway and the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS is increasingly active, and more socially and politically savvy than its radical counterpart-- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Consequently, HSUS is getting more done. The pork industry, meanwhile is playing catchup, and the harsh reality is that when it comes to gestation-sow crates, it may be too late.
Now, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer is rolling out an initiative to increase the amount of pork it purchases from North American suppliers that are phasing out gestation-sow crates. Safeway officials say they will give buying preference to suppliers who are moving away from gestation crates. The stepped up plan is to purchase an additional 5 percent of Safeway's pork from such suppliers in year one of the program, 10 percent in year two and 15 percent in year three.
On the poultry side, Safeway officials will give buying preference to North America processors that use controlled-atmosphere slaughter systems.
It's worth noting that in November HSUS filed a shareholder resolution regarding Safeway's animal-welfare policies, but it has since withdrawn that resolution -- in light of the retailer's announcement.
"This initiative will make Safeway one of the first major retailers to undertake such an effort, and it sends an important message to suppliers and customers about these critical issues," said Brian Dowling, Safeway vice president of external affairs, wrote in a letter to HSUS.
Increasingly, activists groups are pressuring the boardrooms of food retailers and attacking the brands as a way to get changes made.