Marks & Spencer announces that RSPCA will audit every single M&S dairy farm to RSPCA Assured Standards and committed to publishing the results on its website.
In a full announcement, Director of Food Andy Adcock confirmed that all 40 UK farms (known as the M&S Milk Pool) will be audited by RSPCA assessors as soon as possible.
The move comes in advance of the retailer adopting RSPCA Assured Standards as its minimum requirement which will see the farms assessed annually.
RSPCA Assured Standards are the highest welfare standards in the industry and cover all aspects of milk production including calf rearing, cow welfare, accommodation, health planning, transport, feed, and grazing.
The farms will still be required to be Red Tractor Assured (the current minimum standard) and M&S will continue its own twice yearly Select Farm Assurance audits.
Andy Adcock, M&S Director of Food, said: “This is a significant strengthening of our animal welfare standards. We are already recognized by leading animal charities but are always looking to improve and RSPCA Assured is the best in the business. Very few farms operate to that level of animal welfare and adoption of these standards will set M&S dairy farms apart – and that’s what our customers want and expect from us.”
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 40 farms spread across the UK delivering regionally sourced fresh milk into M&S stores and cafes. 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.
“We are proud of the standards that the M&S Milk Pool has worked to achieve over the past 17 years, but also we recognise that third-party endorsement strengthens our pool and provides a significant point of difference for our farmers. In addition to the pride we have in our standards, we take great pride in our cows who produce the fresh milk that M&S puts in front of its customers each day and we believe it is a great product that is the best in the business.” Tim Lock, Chairman of the M&S Milk Pool and dairy farmer in West Sussex