What should retailers know about The Humane Society
of the United States?
Matthew Prescott: The Humane Society of the United States
has a long, rich history of partnering with food companies
to help them address customer concerns about animal welfare. Increasingly, people are shopping not only for food at a
value, but also for food that aligns with their values. The Food
Marketing Institute, for example, recently reported that animal
welfare is now the second most important social concern to
However, there are some gaps in what consumers want
and expect in terms of animal treatment and how animals are
sometimes—not always, but sometimes—treated in agricultural operations. We view our role as a resource for companies,
to help them find ways of narrowing that gap.
Toward that end, we work with dozens of the world’s largest
food companies to identify meaningful, feasible ways to better align their supply chains with consumer expectations—all
while maintaining or even enhancing existing business models.
How have these issues changed over the years?
I first started working with food companies on animal welfare
issues back in about 2002. At that time animal welfare was just
an emerging issue and not many companies were taking a very
active role in it. Today, things could not be more different.
As consumers’ access to information about where their food
comes from has increased, so too have their expectations
that their food come from trusted, safe, humane sources. This
expectation presents both risks and opportunities—risks for
retailers that fail to adapt to their customers’ changing expectations, and opportunities for retailers to get ahead of issues
like animal welfare and proactively court customers based on
their work around the issue.
That is exactly what the largest companies are now doing—
proactively addressing animal welfare to stay at least on par
with, and in many cases ahead of, consumer demand. They are
switching to cage-free eggs. They are switching to crate-free
pork. They are beginning to address wel-
fare concerns with regard to broiler
chickens—like how many are bred and
drugged to grow so large, so fast that
they suffer painful crippling disabili-
ties. Unlike back in 2002, today compa-
nies now view tackling these issues as an
important part of their business models.
What can retailers and suppliers do to help?
To us, the question is more what we can do to help retailers.
We provide—always for free—help navigating supply chains
and understanding the customer climate around animal welfare issues, advice and assistance in staying ahead of emerging
issues, marketing and publicity initiatives and more. Basically,
for any company that wants to address animal welfare, we are
here to help with whatever they need.
Does the Humane Society of the United States have
specialized programs for retail?
Absolutely. Our scientific experts are always open to helping
companies understand the nuances of various animal welfare
issues. Our PR and marketing divisions are eager to help promote the good work of companies tackling animal welfare. And
each year, we host a private roundtable for our industry partners, where they can learn from each other about strategies for
addressing animal welfare—just to name a few.
What do retailers need to do on their own to maximize
the Humane Society of the United States’ services?
Just get in touch. Any company interested in these issues
should feel free to reach out to me personally any time at
email@example.com. Our door is always open. Animal welfare
is a journey, not a destination, and we are always happy to help
any company address the issues—whether it is something they
have been doing for a decade and want to do more, or whether
they are brand new to the issue.
WITH MATTHEW PRESCOTT
Matthew Prescott, senior food policy director for The Humane Society
of the United States, says consumers expect that their food come
from trusted, safe, humane sources.