IN THE NEWS: UK supermarket group won't buy factory farm butter

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IN THE NEWS: On JAN 7, 2010

A large supermarket chain in the UK, Waitrose Ltd, has told Kapiti Independent News it will boycott any New Zealand dairy produce from factory farms.

This statement follows proposals from three NZ companies to set up massive factory farms in the pristine landscape of the McKenzie country in the South island.

The companies are applying for consents to set up 16 new factory farms, housing nearly 18,000 cows in cubicle shelters for 24 hours a day, 8 months of the year.

Because the proposals mark such a departure from the NZ tradition of pastoral dairy farming – and because the plans affect a unique NZ landscape – KIN asked the Waitrose supermarket group for their reaction to the proposals.

And it was decidedly negative.

The Waitrose Company has more than 200 branches throughout the UK and is known for its high-quality retailing and its high ethical standards.

The company’s Communications Manager (Agriculture), Amy Hayward-Paine, told KIN the supermarket chain would not buy produce from dairy factory farms.

Amy Hayward-Paine says:

“Waitrose is dedicated to delivering the very highest standards of animal welfare at home and abroad and working collaboratively with farmers and suppliers to ensure that these standards are maintained.

“It is our understanding that it is a small group (of non-Waitrose supplying farmers) that is looking into changing some aspects of dairying in New Zealand, a process which is in the early stages of investigation.”

Animal welfare vital

She says: “I can assure you that, in line with our policies, Waitrose would not source own-label dairy products from farmers in New Zealand that did not allow their cows to roam freely outside, or to have the best welfare standards.”

The Waitrose Manager also says:” Waitrose have had confirmation from Fronterra, who produce the milk for Anchor butter, that they will continue to graze their herds outside.”

She says Waitrose now has a total of 222 branches, which includes smaller ‘convenience’ formats, retail outlets in some motorway service stations, and a presence in Dubai.

The Waitrose website also stresses quality.

It states: “The careful way we source our food is the corner-stone of how we do business – both with British companies and those of other countries.”

Earlier this year, Waitrose announced it was rejecting NZ hoki supplies because ‘bottom trawling’ is used in NZ fisheries.

On the general issue of food quality, Ms Hayward-Paine adds:

“Last year we launched the essential Waitrose range which delivers the high quality you would expect from Waitrose for less than you might expect to spend.

“Everything in the range continues to meet the high standards of Waitrose quality and care.”

No produce from factory farms

“For instance,” Ms Wayward-Paine says, ”All pork is British and comes from pigs that are outdoor bred; all chicken is British; eggs are free range; all bananas are Fairtrade; and our lamb is best in season (so comes from either New Zealand or Wales).

“At the heart of our supply chain are our producer groups that span the livestock, milk, farmed fish, fruit and vegetable categories.”

The Waitrose communication manger also outlines the Waitrose policy of working closely with producer groups.

She says: “The principles of a dedicated producer group and a collaborative supply chain are active across all our primary producer groups.

“This commitment provides a solid boost in confidence for the group’s members to maintain and increase production and invest in the future.”

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