The commitment means that the 150 million pints of milk sold in M&S stores each year will come from farms with the highest animal welfare standards. RSPCA Assured accreditation has been awarded to all 37 farms – known as the M&S Milk Pool – that deliver fresh milk to retailer’s stores and cafes.  

“We know how much animal welfare matters to our customers and that they expect the highest standards from us,” M&S head of agriculture and fisheries Steve McLean said: “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.”

M&S took the decision to strengthen its standards after one of its dairy farmers was found to be in breach of animal welfare regulations. A subsequent RSPCA assessment checked 332 standards at all M&S dairy farms between April and June found a small number of non-compliances, all of which were corrected by mid-July.

“Thanks to M&S thousands more dairy cows will now have a better life reared to RSPCA welfare standards,” RSPCA Assured chief executive Clive Brazier said. “And not only that but, for the first time ever, consumers will be able to buy RSPCA Assured labelled 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.”

Dairy developments

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. M&S pays its pool farmers a price above the cost of production, which it claims is one of the highest prices of any high-street store or supermarket.

A sustainability movement has been driven by major players within the dairy industry in recent times – with a specific focus on supporting the development of young farmers. Off of the back of similar efforts made by Starbucks and Mondelez International’s sustainable-sourcing programme, Nestlé last year linked up with dairy producer First Milk to help develop ‘the next generation of sustainable dairy leaders’.

Many of the key themes from the retail sector summary will be discussed in detail at edie’s Responsible Retail Conference (organised with support from the BRC) in September. Find out more about that conference and register to attend here.

George Ogleby

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