The keeping and use of animals play an important role in both the food retail sector and in travel and tourism. Animal products such as meat or eggs are an integral part of eating habits today – consequently, animal husbandry is a significant branch of agricultural production. In many holiday destinations, interaction with animals is also part of the local entertainment offering. In both industries, however, the animals often suffer from poor living conditions or handling which is inappropriate for the species. Current conversations in society about animal welfare show that species-appropriate keeping of animals is becoming increasingly important to consumers and holidaymakers. The stakeholders of the REWE Group also see the topic as very important for the company. The focus for them is a larger selection of animal products with excellent animal husbandry (for more information, see Materiality Analysis).
In view of the area of action of animals within the Green Products Strategy 2030, the REWE Group is aiming to firmly establish animal welfare in its supply chains and promote it at the holiday destinations of DER Touristik.
For the REWE Group, the respectful treatment of animals in the production of goods of animal origin is fundamental. The commercial company takes guidance here from the widespread concept of “Five Provisions and Welfare Aims”:
- positive mental experiences
- good environmental conditions
- good health
- good diet
- species-appropriate behaviour
This concept, derived from the “Five Freedoms” of the British Farm Animal Welfare Council, corresponds to the current state of science and provides for extensions in the event of new findings.
GRI FP10: Physical alterations of animals
In its Guidelines on Sustainable Business Practices, the REWE Group has committed itself to complying with and improving animal welfare standards and to expanding animal welfare in animal husbandry. In order to fulfil this obligation, the REWE Group published its updated Guideline on Animal Welfare. in 2022. They supersede the Mission Statement on Animal Husbandry of the Future from 2015 and the previous guidelines from 2019. They document husbandry at the REWE Group with regards to animal welfare for the private labels sold at REWE and PENNY in Germany. The guideline defines an overall strategy and its implementation through goals, measures and requirements. The REWE Group is aware that the production of goods of animal origin also has effects on people and the environment. In its guideline, the Group places the focus on animal welfare – and highlights the various challenges in this regard which need to be reconciled in animal husbandry, from rearing through to the consumers. The Guideline on Animal Welfare defines a binding operational framework for the REWE Group and its business relationships with contract partners. In 2016, the REWE Group in Austria published its own Guideline on Animal Welfare, which presents the main measures and areas of action for Austria.
In 2020, the REWE Group realigned its animal welfare strategy. The three principles of “Eliminate”, “Adapt” and “Expand” form the framework of the animal welfare strategy. For example, a lack of usability or long transport routes should be eliminated in the supply chains and husbandry conditions should be adapted to the needs of the animals – through more space and run-out areas, more activities or through fewer interventions on the animal. Also, for instance, regional production should be expanded.
The REWE Group has set itself a strategic objective in relation to animal welfare: By 2030, the company wants to establish greater animal welfare in those supply chains which include products of animal origin for the private labels at PENNY and REWE. In addition, the REWE Group has formulated subgoals for the private label product range (see Step 2 in the strategy process below).
Similar to the approach for more responsible supply chains, the REWE Group pursues a four-stage process in its animal welfare strategy, in close coordination with suppliers: Risk and Hot Spot Analysis, Derivation of Focal Points and Goals, Implementation through Measures and Requirements, Monitoring and Reporting.
As part of an extensive risk and hot spot analysis, both external and internal factors were taken into consideration, and the hot spots – that is, the main social and environmental challenges – were investigated. These were supplemented by stakeholder surveys and trend evaluations such as, for example, consideration of the current political situation. In addition, experts were brought in and analyses performed on the product range and private labels.
Through the analysis, six focus animal species (chicken, turkey, pig, cattle, dairy cow and laying hen) and eight focus product groups (poultry, pork, beef, sausage, cheese, milk, dairy products and eggs) were identified as being significant. These are where the REWE Group can achieve the biggest possible impact in the area of animal welfare. In order to achieve the strategic goal regarding animal welfare, specific focus subject areas were also defined, including animal-appropriate husbandry, origin and appreciation for life. Subgoals were subsequently formulated for the private label product range. With these goals, the company is focusing on issues such as the improvement of husbandry conditions, as it will be repeatedly moving to higher husbandry levels in the years to come (see Specific measures and projects and husbandry conditions). The data for some of these subgoals was collected quantitatively for the first time in 2021. Collection of data is not possible for some of these.
The strategic approach for greater animal welfare is implemented on three levels:
- Clear minimum requirements are defined for suppliers at grassroots level. These usually go beyond the level required by law. The list of these requirements is constantly being reassessed, adapted and expanded.
- Furthermore, the REWE Group promotes animal welfare among the general public through cooperation with standards and in industry initiatives.
- In order to drive the transformation of the industry forward, the REWE Group is also constantly looking for innovative solutions which are piloted in lighthouse projects. Ideally, these projects are so successful that they can be developed among the general public in the long term. An example is “Spitz & Bube free-range eggs”, which REWE launched in 2016. The beaks of the laying hens are left in their natural form and their male counterparts are raised until they are ready for slaughter. This project marked the beginning of the development of today's “chick-culling-free” standard (for more information, see Chick-culling-free supply chains).
The activities that we conduct are monitored and evaluated. The results of this monitoring work are then incorporated into refining the measures.
Animal welfare at DER Touristik
In order to meet the demand for animal-friendly offerings, a binding animal welfare guideline applies to the entire DER Touristik Group. It contains a comprehensive group strategy as well as an action plan with measures. By the end of 2023, the aim is to adapt the combine's entire product portfolio to established animal welfare standards – a year later than planned due to the corona pandemic and the associated travel restrictions. DER Touristik aims to protect animals from exploitation and neglect. Together with experts and industry participants, DER Touristik is working to improve animal welfare standards in tourism, make local suppliers aware of the topic, and help them to design more animal-friendly facilities. The focus is on animal species which are particularly affected by tourism activities. In order to check whether requirements are being adhered to, selected attractions are subject to external audits where certain criteria are checked based on the Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism of the British travel association ABTA. For example, elephant rides and shows have already been completely removed from the programmes of DER Touristik tour operators. In order to help suppliers improve standards for animals, DER Touristik employees, especially those of global destination agencies, also receive training on this topic.
Specific measures and projects to improve animal welfare
As described in the approach, the measures for implementation are taken on three levels and are grouped as follows:
Clear minimum requirements for suppliers:
Chick-culling-free supply chains
In 2016, the REWE Group started working to create chick-culling-free supply chains for fresh eggs in private labels, long before this practice was prohibited by law on 1st January 2022. To this end, for the past five years, REWE and PENNY have turned to the “Bruderhahn” (brother cockerel) project “Spitz & Bube” and “Herzbube” respectively, where the male chicks are reared. In 2017, the respeggt free-range eggs were introduced, where in-egg chick sexing takes place to avoid chick culling (see In-egg chick sexing). Since February 2021, these two methods have also been used for fresh eggs of the budget private label “ja!” to gradually transition to chick-culling-free eggs. Lekkerland also only sells chick-culling-free eggs through its private label “mybasics”. Therefore, the REWE Group has achieved its goal of chick-culling-free supply chains for fresh eggs in the private labels of REWE and PENNY early. Consequently, this is a clear requirement for the company's suppliers with immediate effect.
Consumers can identify chick-culling-free supply chains by the label: The entire shell egg product range of private labels, across all forms of husbandry (organic, free range and barn), bears the label “ohne Kükentöten” (chick-culling-free), whilst eggs in the budget private label “ja!” are labelled “Nein! zum Kükentöten” (no to chick culling). The company has already produced one billion chick-culling-free eggs. In addition, the REWE Group has expanded its campaign against chick culling to include the production of products that contain egg. These include, for example, the egg salad and, since February 2022, many pasta products of the private label REWE Beste Wahl. The REWE Group is also engaged in the topic of dual-purpose breeds. Here the animals are not only bred for one trait, but rather are used, for example, for both egg and meat production.
Elimination of eggs from caged hens
The husbandry conditions of caged laying hens are not acceptable to the REWE Group. In 2010, the REWE Group in Germany started to sell only barn and free-range private label eggs which meet the requirements of the Verein für kontrollierte alternative Tierhaltungsformen e. V. (KAT) (association for controlled alternative types of animal husbandry). This was followed in 2012 by the decision to also avoid the use of eggs from caged hens or small group husbandry for processed products in Germany. By 2025 at the latest, the aim is to also stop selling eggs from caged hens in all foreign retail companies.
Husbandry requirements implemented for buffaloes
In order to produce mozzarella from buffalo milk, a cow needs to bring one calf into the world every year. Around half of these calves are male. Since they do not produce any milk and their meat is not popular amongst consumers, there is little interest in raising them and the animals are not given sufficient food and space. Animal welfare organisations are increasingly drawing attention to the resulting problems and animal welfare violations. In order to counter this, the REWE Group has contractually obliged its suppliers to comply with the minimum requirements for buffalo husbandry according to the standards of the animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS. These go beyond legal requirements in that, for example, access to mud baths or water spray systems is stipulated.
No use of monkeys for coconut harvest
The general quality guidelines of Quality Assurance at the REWE Group state that no animals may be used for the harvest of coconuts for private label food products – this applies both to coconut milk private labels of the REWE Group as well as to private labels which use coconut constituents in further processing. The general quality guidelines form the basis for all supplier agreements of the REWE Group and are binding.
Cooperation with standards and in industry initiatives to promote animal welfare among the general public:
Improvement of industry-wide animal welfare standards: Initiative Tierwohl
As a founding member of the Initiative Tierwohl (ITW), the REWE Group is committed to improving industry-wide animal welfare standards. Through this alliance launched in 2015, partners from agriculture, the meat industry, food retail and catering acknowledge their joint responsibility when it comes to animal husbandry, animal health and animal welfare in livestock farming. The ITW helps farmers to implement measures for the welfare of their livestock which go beyond legal standards.
Through the participation of more than 10,200 farms, 647 million pigs, chickens and turkeys benefit from improved husbandry conditions each year. All farms in the Initiative Tierwohl are inspected annually through a regular audit and an unannounced audit. Any farms which violate the requirements of the ITW are rigorously sanctioned. With the 2021-2023 programme, the ITW is already in the third phase of the programme. Since its launch, participating food retailers have jointly invested over 645 million euros in the welfare of pigs, chickens and turkeys. At the start of 2021, massive additional investments were also agreed for pig farmers: In order to enable all interested farmers to participate in the ITW, participating companies in the food retail sector are now providing around 135 million euros for piglet producers in a fund for 2021 to 2023 rather than around 75 million euros as planned. In addition to the market price, the piglet farmers also receive an animal welfare premium from this fund for each piglet. In 2022, the ITW will expand to cattle.
Since 2019, as part of the initiative, the REWE Group has also been promoting animal welfare among the general public through the four-level industry labelling for husbandry levels 1 to 4. The system also provides transparency about added animal welfare value and helps consumers to make conscious purchasing decisions. The labelling is currently available the following animal species: chicken, turkey, pig, cattle, dairy cow, duck and rabbit. Since the start of 2022, the REWE Group has been gradually introducing the husbandry levels to milk and dairy products (see “Strategy Development, Step 2”).
The husbandry levels
- Level 1: Indoor Housing
This type of husbandry corresponds to the legal requirements, the QS standard or a comparable one.
- Level 2: Indoor Housing Plus
The animals are kept with higher animal welfare standards such as, for example, at least 10 per cent more living space and additional items to keep them stimulated. The criteria for Level 2 correspond to the requirements of the Initiative Tierwohl.
- Level 3: Outdoor Climate
This type of husbandry offers the animals benefits such as even more space and contact with fresh air.
- Level 4: Premium
The animals have even more space and must have run-out areas. Meat is classified as being organic at this level.
In March 2022, the REWE Group and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation for Our Contemporaries concluded their negotiations on the European Chicken Commitment. The common goal is to establish higher minimum standards in the European poultry market. The REWE Group has committed itself to a specific action plan without even joining the initiative. Thus, from 2030, husbandry level 3 is to be the minimum standard in the entire fresh meat product range of the REWE Group for chickens, pigs, turkeys and cattle alike. The REWE Group is also committed to implementing the requirements of the European Chicken Commitment into the Initiative Tierwohl. The REWE Group wants to use its influence here and actively promote this within the industry. Furthermore, the REWE Group is committed to a long-term and sustainable strengthening of agriculture in Germany.
With the help of various regional programmes throughout Germany, the REWE Group wants to promote and maintain regional structures as well as ensure better animal welfare through short transport routes and improved husbandry systems. Central to this are fair, cooperative partnerships and close communication with farmers. Against this background, the REWE Group is currently implementing 19 regional programmes with added animal welfare value for pigs, cattle and chickens.
For example, under the brand “Strohwohl”, the REWE sales line offers meat from pigs in North Rhine-Westphalia, which were mostly kept on straw. Rearing and fattening take place in modern family-run farms according to the latest standards. The animals have double the amount of space as required by law and are given non-genetically modified feed. In addition, no reserve antibiotics are used. And, under the brand “FairMast”, meat from German chickens is offered which are kept in animal-appropriate living spaces with more room than in other forms of husbandry. They are kept in accordance with the standards of the European Chicken Commitment and meat products bear the label “Für Mehr Tierschutz” (For more animal welfare) from the German Animal Welfare Federation.
Consumer milk: “Du bist hier der Chef” (You are the boss here)
In 2020, the consumer initiative “Du bist hier der Chef” (You are the Boss Here) conducted a survey to find out which characteristics are particularly important for the product milk. The resulting Consumer Milk is available in the around 250 REWE stores in the Region “Mitte”. It offers fair compensation for the farmers, has packaging made from renewable raw materials, and is produced by organic farms. The cows are given regionally produced feed and spend at least four months of the year on grazing land.
Species-appropriate keeping of quails: “free to fly”
In Germany, there are no minimum requirements for the husbandry conditions of quails for egg production. For their private labels, the REWE and PENNY sales lines only use quail eggs from the “free to fly” type of husbandry. With this, the quails enjoy a run modelled on their natural habitat, where they can peck, scratch, sandbathe and fly freely. The feed is free of genetically modified substances. In addition, this standard bans beak treatments and unnecessary live animal transport over more than 50 kilometres, and stipulates that day-old male chicks should be reared.
Better standards with “Fair zum Tier” (Fair to the animal)
Under the label “Fair zum Tier” (Fair to the Animal), the REWE Group in Austria offers meat and dairy products as well as eggs, which come from conventional animal husbandry. The higher animal welfare standards concern husbandry, transport and slaughter, and are well above the legal requirements. In the area of pig breeding, for example, converted or newly built stalls are being used since the guidelines prescribe a ban on fully-slatted floors, more space, and access to the outside. In addition, interventions on piglets such as castration may not be performed without prior pain elimination, anaesthesia and pain aftercare. The docking of tails is banned. All animals under “Fair zum Tier” are fed with genetically unmodified feed which is sourced primarily from Austria. Compliance with standards is checked annually.
Transformation of the industry through innovative solutions:
Rearing male chicks
Free-range eggs have been sold under the exclusive brand “Spitz & Bube” in all participating REWE stores across Germany since July 2017, while fresh barn eggs have been sold since 2018. With this brand, the beaks of the laying hens are left in their natural form and their male counterparts are raised. Since the end of 2020, all organic eggs sold by the REWE sales line have been produced from operations where the “brother cockerels” are raised. This ensures that male chicks are no longer culled for REWE organic eggs. Furthermore, the REWE Beste Wahl product range includes chicken fricassee meat from the project “Spitz & Bube”.
At the start of 2017, with the brand HERZBUBE, PENNY was the first discounter in Germany to introduce fresh barn eggs across the country, where non-debeaked laying hens are kept and the male chicks are reared.
In-egg chick sexing
Using the SELEGGT process, it is possible to eliminate the culling of male chicks of laying hen breeds. The use of new technology enables the sex of the chick to be determined in the hatching egg: In the SELEGGT process, a laser is used to burn a hole of no more than 0.3 millimetre into the shell of a hatching egg in order to withdraw a drop of allantoic fluid to determine the sex. The inner portion of the hatching egg remains undisturbed. The fluid is then analysed and the hatching eggs can be sorted by sex. Only the female hatching eggs are incubated further. Once they have hatched, these laying hens lay the so-called respeggt “chick-culling-free” eggs. The male hatching eggs are turned into a high-quality feed.
The basic research for the SELEGGT process was developed by the University of Leipzig. In order to create a practical set-up, the REWE Group teamed up with a Dutch technology company to form the joint adventure respeggt. In addition to sexing, it also conducts supply chain certification, thereby guaranteeing the added “chick-culling-free” value for customers.
Since the start of 2020, customers have been able to buy respeggt free-range eggs at all of the approximately 5,900 REWE and PENNY stores in Germany. In addition, since October 2021, the REWE Beste Wahl potato salad with egg and gherkin has been available with respeggt eggs at all REWE stores. The plan is to expand this to additional products in 2022.
Promotion of an alternative breed of turkey
Poultry fattening in line with environmental guidelines brings particular challenges. For example, traditional breeds of turkey are only suitable for environmentally-friendly poultry fattening to a limited extent since their rapid growth can lead to health problems, and turkeys are not suitable for breeding their own offspring. Consequently, REWE Bio is supporting Biofino GmbH with a pioneering breeding project: By crossbreeding English free-range Auburn turkeys and a conventional hybrid breed, a new breed was bred which is characterised by its particular robustness and vitality and is highly suited to free-range rearing and feeding with organic feed. During rearing, each animal has around twelve square metres of space to move in the coop, on the open-air ground, and in the covered outdoor area. A longer period of growth is deliberately accepted. In 2021, 50 per cent of organic fresh turkey meat in the private labels of REWE and PENNY came from Biofino GmbH and thus from these turkeys. The REWE Group is aiming to switch the organic fresh turkey meat of the private label REWE Bio completely over to the new breed of turkey.
Vegan and hybrid product ranges
Since 2021, the REWE Group has been offering hybrid meat products which are made from 50% vegetables under the brand “Better half”. These address those consumers who want to reduce their meat consumption without losing the classic taste. In addition, the company is supporting the dynamically growing trend of a vegan diet and has launched vegan private labels across its product groups. PENNY was the first discounter in Germany to do this, launching “Food for Future” in 2020. In 2021, the brand “REWE Bio + vegan” was introduced at REWE, where all products are also organic certified.
With its vegan private labels, the REWE Group won two prizes at the third PETA Vegan Food Awards in June 2021. The REWE sales line was selected as the “Most vegan-friendly supermarket” due to its extensive product range of vegan alternative products. The cross-product-group vegan private label at PENNY, “Food for Future”, was the winner in the category “Best private label”.