Projects to promote animal welfare

Aside from Naturaplan and Naturafarm, our commitment to the well-being of animals is expressed through various pioneering projects. We are actively involved in improving animal welfare through around 30 projects, some large and some small.

Rearing dual-purpose chickens to avoid the need to kill male chicks

Each year, around 2 million male chicks from laying hen rearing programmes are killed because they are not suitable for fattening and don't lay eggs. Because of this, at the start of 2014 we launched a field trial at some of our organic farms to test whether a new breed of chicken could be used to produce «dual-purpose» chickens. The female chickens are used for egg production and the males for fattening. The results of the field tests were good, and dual purpose chickens are now being reared for Coop on around 10 organic farms.

Meat from healthy calves

Providing calves with plenty of iron is a challenge. Since 2008, under the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance, as well as milk, it is has been mandatory for calves to also have access to roughage and water. Although this helps, it does not carry a good supply of iron. A survey by Swiss Animal Protection (SAP) of the supply of iron to calves in Switzerland reveals that the natural systems like Natura-Veal (veal from suckler cow husbandry, available exclusively at Coop in the retail sector) and organic (larger than 103g/l) show good haemoglobin values.

Proportion of calves with haemoglobin values larger than 103g/l

 20102016

conventional

58%

47%

Naturafarm

25%

29%

Natura-Veal

-

3%

Naturaplan (organic)

11%

0%

Rearing calves with their own or foster mothers

In collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and BioSuisse we are investigating new ways of rearing calves. Our objective is to produce organic veal from calves which have not only suckled milk directly from the udder but have also had access to pasture. In suckler cow husbandry (Natura-Veal) this is already standard, but for the offspring of dairy cows it is the exception nowadays. For this reason we are exploring new avenues with pioneering projects at 10 operations.

High-quality beef from the Baltic

Instead of having premium steaks flow in from Latin America 12 000 kilometres away, we have established grassland-based operations in the Baltic states. In this way, we can also reduce CO2 emissions.

Since the outset, our project has concentrated on suckler cow husbandry, which is the most animal-friendly method of rearing and also best conserves resources. The young animals have access to the extensive meadows and drink lots of milk from the udder during the first half of their lives. We launched the expansion project in 2012, together with the local farmers' organizations, and it will run until 2020.

Fewer antibiotics in calf rearing

In Switzerland, many calves leave the farm where they were born at the age of around four to five weeks to be reared on a specialized veal farm. This is also the case for many Naturafarm calves.

However, the health of the calves is often impaired when they arrive at the veal farm. On the one hand, the care they receive at the farm where they are born is not always the best. On the other hand, the young animals often come into contact with germs from other farms during transport and in holding pens, to which they are not immune. This is less than ideal for the animals' well-being and requires treatment with antibiotics.

We therefore do everything we can to continue improving the conditions on the birth farms and during transport of the calves. In a broad-based project we are testing the results of the preliminary trials in practice between 2017 and 2019. Our project aims to reduce the use of antibiotics and the risk of resistant germs so as to improve the animals' well-being. We will continue to do everything we can to avoid animals becoming ill – but if this does happen, effective drugs will be needed in future too. If the project is successful we will be able to integrate the measures into the Naturafarm guidelines.

Pigs love to root

Pigs spend a significant proportion of the time during which they are active (6–8 hours) searching for food. In their natural environment they do this by rooting in woods and fields. This need can be met to a certain extent on a Naturafarm operation by the provision of long-stem straw, and we are currently trialling rooting areas in the pigs' outdoor exercise areas to cater better to this desire to root.