Animal welfare policy
Today, our commitment extends throughout the global supply chain for our food products, as we seek to continuously learn and work to improve animal agriculture practices.
This work is done in close partnership with our suppliers and others, and we strive to create sustainable practices using the most humane animal treatment practices, which we believe will deliver greater business success by aligning closer to consumer expectations.
We believe that by striving for sustainable sourcing for all our animal ingredients, we will create the environment for more humane treatments of animals globally.
Advancing Common Principles
To advance toward a more sustainable planet including animal welfare, we will apply and work to achieve the “five freedoms” for all animals in our supply chain.
- Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.
- Freedom from discomfort.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
- Freedom to engage in normal patterns of animal behavior.
Our focus extends in various ways to how animals are raised and treated, including:
Eggs are an important ingredient in many of our products, and we strive to ensure that the hens laying these eggs are treated humanely.
We are working toward purchasing only 100 percent cage free or free range eggs for our operations globally by 2025.
As we look ahead to meeting our 2025 commitment, we are pleased with our progress to date and our plans going forward. We expect that by the end of 2023, 80-85% of the eggs we purchase for our operations globally will come from cage-free chickens, 85-90% by the end of 2024, and 100% by the end of 2025. We will report annually on our progress in our Global Responsibility Report available here.
We’re working to understand the issues of pain relief for dairy cows including de-horning, tail docking, and castration. General Mills supports the use of polled genetics breeding programs to promote polled or naturally hornless cattle, thereby eliminating the need for dehorning. This approach has demonstrated success in the beef industry and we support a similar approach in the dairy industry. General Mills encourages all suppliers in our dairy supply chain to support industry-wide efforts that promote the humane treatment of cattle, including the responsible polled breeding practices. Until dehorning is eliminated, General Mills supports the adoption of best management practices, including procedure timing and use of analgesics and/or anesthetics.
In the U.S., General Mills’ Yoplait was the first leading yogurt company to source only milk produced by cows not treated with the synthetic growth hormone rBST. General Mills’ Häagen-Dazs ice cream in Europe is also produced using only cream and milk from cows not treated with rBST.
General Mills supports the development of pregnant sow housing alternatives and has been communicating this support to suppliers over the years.
At the end of calendar year 2022, 48% of the pork cuts we buy in the U.S. came via supply chains in which pregnant sows do not experience prolonged use of gestation crates. We expect to reach 100% by the end of 2023. We define prolonged use as anything longer than nine days per 16 week pregnancy cycle.
While we are committed to eliminating all use of gestation crates even beyond prolonged use to eventually reach zero days of gestation crate use per pregnancy cycle, we understand that there may be very limited occasions when keeping a sow isolated from others could be beneficial, such as for short-term medical procedures. In those limited instances, sows should be given enough room to turn around.
General Mills will work to transition 100 percent of the broiler chicken we buy in the U.S. to meet a higher standard of animal welfare by 2024. This means the broiler chickens we buy will be:
Raised with more space (a stocking density of 6 lbs/ft² or less);
Raised with enriched environments, including litter, lighting, and enrichment that meets Global Animal Partnership (GAP) new standards; and
Processed using controlled-atmospheric stunning (and we will ask suppliers to demonstrate compliance through certification or third party auditing).
By 2026, we will use only breeds accepted by Global Animal Partnership (GAP) or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
Changes that are as broad and complicated as these require time, investment, and partnership to succeed. We have engaged current and prospective suppliers to assess their ability to support us in this journey. Given the very limited scale of our broiler chicken buy – General Mills is a very small buyer within the chicken industry with our broiler chicken volume representing less than 0.05% of the broiler market – we lack the scale to incent widespread industry change with our buy.
By the end of calendar year 2023, we are tracking towards 5% of our broiler chicken meat being contracted for purchase to meet these standards.
In addition, we see potential for regenerative agriculture to provide a paradigm shift in farm animal well-being. More information on this can be found in the Animal Welfare section of our Global Responsibility Report. For example, we are continuing to invest in research on the benefits of pastured poultry production by partnering with North Carolina State University to commission a study comparing pastured and conventional poultry production systems. The literature review and study intend to understand outcomes across animal welfare and management, microbiology and food safety, and meat quality. We have also provided funding to the Regenerative Agricultural Alliance, which seeks to codify the benefits of having chickens acting in their natural roles within ecosystems. Learnings from this work will help inform our approach moving forward.
Since 2017, General Mills has taken multiple steps towards meeting our goals. These include:
- the creation of the Global Impact Governance Committee which includes our CEO and other company leaders, and oversees progress of our ESG goals, including animal welfare,
- the staffing an Initiative Leader role to coordinate the execution of goals with our business and Sourcing function,
- and onboarding alternate suppliers who are further along in adoption of these standards.
Antibiotics and hormones
General Mills agrees with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that judicious use of medically important antibiotic drugs can help preserve the effectiveness of these drugs as therapies for humans and animals. For that reason, we do not support routine use of antibiotic drugs to promote growth in livestock, and believe such drugs should be used only as necessary and appropriate to maintain the health of animals.
In accordance with US regulations, General Mills does not support the use of hormones in the raising of hogs or poultry.
General Mills does not conduct, support or condone the use of animal testing that is not legally required for food safety or quality. We do not maintain any testing facilities. Where governmental agencies require animal testing to demonstrate safety or quality, studies are completed by accredited third-party facilities that follow proper animal welfare guidelines. We are advocates for replacing animal testing with other validated methods to support the safety and quality of new food ingredients and have financially supported research to develop alternative methods.