The following is a summary of a conversation that took place on September 10, 2014 as part of our medium depth investigation of Compassion In World Farming USA. Leah Garces spoke with Jon Bockman, ACE’s Executive Director.
CIWF has an organizational level strategy for 2013-2017, a US three-year strategy that is based on that, and finally a one-year operational plan.
The organizational mission is to end factory farming and advance the welfare of farmed animals globally. That mission can’t be completed without substantial work in the US, which is why CIWF set up a US office in 2011.
US focus on chickens
Initially the US office conducted an assessment of the landscape to determine what their unique contribution could be. CIWF decided to focus on broiler chickens for two reasons: 1) They constitute 95% of factory farmed animals, and 2) At the time, no organization was prioritizing broilers.
Based on this assessment and available resources, CIWF USA decided they would have the most traction by focusing initially on corporate policy. CIWF USA created a strategy around these two points, because they are very focused on system change and making the biggest impact possible.
Compassion in World Farming’s five-year Strategic Plan is publicly available and all organizational activities stem from there. The strategy is composed of three change goals. The first is to achieve recognition that ending factory farming is key to humane and sustainable food and farming policy worldwide. The second and third involve changes that are more near term. One is about improving the lives of farmed animals through legislation and public policy and the other is about bringing animal welfare into the heart of corporate policy for food businesses. When they considered these goals and their resources, they thought the way they could be most effective in the United States was through the third goal, driving change through corporate policy and the global food supply chain. They matched that with the fact that no one was prioritizing the welfare of broiler chickens. The US three-year plan has specific goals related to all three of their change goals, but changing corporate policy to improve the lives of broilers is the priority objective.
Research on US market
CIWF USA makes strategic decisions based on thorough research and being able to measure their impact. They wanted to understand the chicken market thoroughly before launching any strategy. The first thing they did was undertake market research into the attitudes among stakeholders, into where the most chicken is being sold, the growth areas for the market, and opportunities there might be to hurt the market if necessary. CIWF USA received a grant from the ASPCA to conduct such research.
They interviewed corporate and chicken industry stakeholders. A key learning from these interviews was that companies do not feel compelled to act until they feel it is a business risk or there is sufficient public interest. Broiler welfare was not high on the corporate radar. This was a hugely frustrating point, but it was true. At that time no one had done an exposé in a broiler factory farm in a decade; the last one had been done by Compassion over Killing a decade before, which Compassion in World Farming highlighting in this piece. CIWF USA realized that it was critical to raise broiler welfare in the public sphere in order to create public pressure for change.
Since then, both Mercy For Animals and Compassion over Killing have done some excellent work on exposing this issue. People are now getting more visual information on the conditions and public awareness is being raised about the issue. CIWF has helped be a catalyst for this and they are excited that this is now starting to happen. It became clear that a public facing campaign was critical to success and they created the Better chicken Initiative, supported by Jamie Oliver. (See below).
US office programs
One important aspect of their plan is that if a company hasn’t started working on some of the most obvious and egregious confinement issues, like cages and crates, they are unlikely to jump straight to discussing broiler chicken welfare standards, which is more complex. CIWF USA sees banning basic confinement (cages and crates) as a critical first step towards engaging companies in a wider conversation to impact more animals. For example, a gateway to talking about broiler welfare is initially talking about cage-free eggs and gestation crate free pork. Getting companies to commit to being cage-free on eggs or gestation crate free pork is an important segue to talking about improving the lives of broiler chickens. As a result Compassion in World Farming offers policy advice for all areas on farm animal welfare to food business. They engage with companies by offering their services for training and assistance in creating baseline animal welfare policy.
The US strategy from 2013-2016 has two main streams of work. Both kinds are about engaging companies and having impacts through partnering with them. One is looking at raising baseline standards to reduce suffering by eliminating the worst practices through their highly successful Food Business Program; the other is highlighting best practices, as with Pastured Poultry Week.
Food Business Program – raising baseline standards
With broilers, unlike with laying hens or with gestation crates for pigs, there isn’t a visible cage to campaign against. Their genetics are their cage. They knew asking large corporate business to stop serving chicken entirely or to switch immediately to having all of their chickens being free range or pasture raised was an improbable success. Instead, they work towards incremental change and continuous improvement. Their strategy is to raise baseline standards by moving companies up a ladder from bad to better to best, and they want companies to get companies on the ladder first and foremost and then look at how they can continuously improve the standards of life for broiler chickens.
CIWF has a mature Food Business engagement operation in Europe, offering expert advice and consultancy to leading food companies on improving the welfare of animals in their supply chain. Their program has a proven track record of securing material changes in company policy that push farm animal welfare up the corporate social responsibility agenda and, most importantly, transform the lives of millions of farmed animals. The program began in 2007 with the Good Egg Awards, celebrating companies who source cage-free eggs. They have since expanded the scheme by launching awards for Chicken (2010), Dairy (2011) and Pigs (2012). Over 287 million animals are now set to benefit each year from the higher welfare policies adopted by their food company partners and award winning companies in the UK and Europe.
Their track record in food business engagement
Since the launch of our Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards the policies of CIWF’s award winners are set to benefit over:
- 30,000,000 laying hens
- 250,000,000 broiler chickens
- 300,000 dairy cows and calves
- 1,400,000 breeding sows and pigs reared for meat.
In the EU their specific targets for each species by 2017 are as follows
- 1 billion chickens
- 125 million laying hens
- 25 million pigs
- 750,000 – 1 million dairy cows and calves in the UK and EU
In the US they would also expect to shift the market for farmed animals and are developing specific targets for each species. In order to provide a sense of potential impact for the number of animals that could benefit, however, it is worth noting that each percentage point for laying hens is equivalent to 2.8 million hens and for broiler chickens is equivalent to 85 million chickens.
They have an award ceremony every year and calculate year by year how many animals they’re helping through the awards. They also do consider the results of legislation, but because it is harder to achieve, that’s not what they’re focusing on in the US.
Last year they had to strip a company of their award since it went back on its policy, so they are not afraid to do this if a company does not maintain their commitment.
Because CIWF USA believes in continuous improvement, companies communicate with Compassion to maintain on an ongoing basis regarding the criteria for receiving their awards. CIWF USA also creates additional awards to incentivize companies to continue participating in their process and improving conditions for animals. They view the awards as a tool to use to improve corporate policy. Everyone loves to be awarded and recognized publicly for their achievement. It creates goodwill and a good platform for further partnerships.
US Food Business Program: progress to date
Leading US food companies have been receptive and ready to engage with us and we have made significant progress since the program’s inception in 2011. Having developed relations with a considerable number of leading producers and food businesses, Compassion is now firmly established as an authority on broiler welfare and corporate engagement. They see their track record, experience base and technical expertise as very valuable in the US market. They have excellent corporate relationships and are engaged in a positive dialogue with leading food business in the USA. They continue to push to make comparable connections and progress on the producer and retailer side.
Building on EU connections
By focusing on positive change and identifying mutual goals with food companies they provide a distinctive and compelling proposition. This is already working well with European-based multinationals and, importantly, is proving attractive to US food companies. Their initial methodology is to utilize the strong relationships they have built with businesses in the EU and to leverage those relationships to establish connections to their US counterparts, building on the commitments they have made in the EU.
Focusing on companies catering to the ‘natural’ buyer
Their program is also focused on companies that cater to the ‘natural’ buyer. These companies are enjoying the ‘halo effect’, with customers assuming they are already offering higher welfare because it fits within that brand. In reality, the majority of these ‘natural’ companies are primarily selling intensively farmed chicken. These companies are vulnerable as their brand standing will suffer if the truth is exposed.
The Better Chicken Initiative: harnessing public pressure to gain corporate commitments
In April 2014 they launched the Better Chicken Initiative (www.better-chicken.org) to galvanize consumer concern to exert pressure on companies to commit to change. Whilst their awards provide the ‘pull’ to incentivize companies to make change, the complementary ‘push’ from consumers exerts greater leverage to achieve a larger market shift. The Better Chicken Initiative, supported by Jamie Oliver, focuses on informing the public about the severe welfare issues that affect most factory farmed chickens which US consumers are largely unaware of, and shows them alternatives that can improve the lives of these chickens. They encourage them to channel their support into action by calling on companies to sign up to a Better Chicken Initiative. They have gathered more than 35,000 petition signatures to date (exceeding the original 30,000 target). Digital advocacy is a key component and their social media presence is growing rapidly, up 300% between April – September alone. The Better Chicken Initiative serves to create market differentiation – those that sign achieve prestige, those failing to sign up or behind the curve, come under pressure to change. Upon agreeing to the Better Chicken Initiative, companies will qualify for a Good Chicken Award.
Their goal is to move companies across the spectrum from:
- BAD: intensive farming systems, to
- BETTER: higher welfare systems indoors, incorporating lower stocking densities and provision of ‘enrichment’, such as natural light, straw and perches, onto
- BEST: pasture raised, humane and sustainable systems
Pastured Poultry Project – highlighting best practice
Their Pastured Poultry Project showcases ‘best’ practice in chicken production, promoting the ultimate humane, sustainable alternative to factory farmed chicken. They encourage restaurants to switch to serving free range chicken during Pastured Poultry Week. Since launching in Georgia in 2012, they have expanded to New York and, this year, Charleston, with around 100 restaurants now participating. The initiative has caught the public’s imagination, secured strong media coverage and caused a spike in retail sales of pastured poultry. Pastured Poultry Week is a key platform for their positive, solutions-driven approach with farm to table restaurants as important collaborators.
CIWF USA believes that reducing meat consumption is necessary and it is part of their messaging. Their previous CEO, Joyce D’Silva initiated debates and discussions regarding “eat less meat” messaging in the UK, before the US really caught on to it. This is a fundamental part of how CIWF USA thinks that the lives of animals can be improved. The statistics are very clear that once people start thinking about animals and caring how they live, a lot of them go vegetarian or drastically reduce the amount of meat they’re eating. As CIWF pitches it, if people are going to eat meat, they should eat less of it and eat meat from animals that were raised with a higher quality of life. It’s clear that if people start thinking that way, it’s only a matter of time before they start reducing meat consumption. Their CEO wrote a book called Farmageddon, which is about the number of animals that become food waste (about a billion per year in the EU) and how reducing waste would be one way to help animals.
CIWF has an office in China which is focusing on pigs. Like the US office, that office focuses on affecting food business policies, which is because Chinese legislation is pretty minimal. In October they had their first forum for pig producers in China; Chinese pig producers visited the UK and had a workshop on pig welfare. They have 80 staff globally, and currently, four are in the US and one is in China. It’s hard to find people willing to do this work there. They also have one staff member in South Africa; the rest are in five offices in Europe. Their CEO felt strongly that the two places they definitely needed to be present in were China and the US, which is why they opened those offices.
The focus on pigs in China is because China is the largest producer of pigs in the world. Their industry is split between backyard farms and extremely large farms. The largest pig farm in the world is in China, one farm in Muyuan that has as many pigs as there are in the entire UK. That farm was financed by the World Bank, and this is what led CIWF to China. They were targeting the World Bank and saying that it should stop funding factory farming around the world, and through that they found out about the size of farms in China. The consumption of pig in China is also very high per capita, higher than in the US. They have had some traction with improvements, but as in the US it has been basic things like getting rid of gestation crates. This is not like in the UK, where gestation crates are illegal and they’re able to talk about group housing, bedding, and stopping tail docking.
They’re still working on getting the US office to a point where they are self-funded; right now they’re receiving supplemental money from the UK.
The organization as a whole has a two-tier budget, their core budget and their desirable budget. They make sure that their core budget is covered, and they don’t include programs in their core budget if they don’t have the money for them. Those are the programs that they’re completely committed to. The desirable budget is the growth area; the programs that they would like to keep moving into implementing. At the end of each quarter they look at how much money is left over or that they’ve raised above what they thought they were going to raise and the senior management decides how to divide that among items in the desirable budget.
Recently the US office got some of that funding for two new positions, a digital advocacy position and a fundraiser. Right now the demand for their work has outstripped their ability to meet it, especially on the corporate side. They give advice to companies on writing their corporate farm animal welfare policy, in order to lead them to make species specific changes. Even companies that one wouldn’t expect to care about these things are seeing the need to write policies, and that is time consuming. Right now CIWF has one food business manager in the US and could use more people to do that corporate outreach work.
Potential funding uses
Right now donations to CIWF in the US would go to the US office. They would not be distributed elsewhere unless specifically requested. (For example, a US donor has specifically asked to give to their China office). The US office would use it to expand the food business program. The other thing they would use money on is the digital side of advocacy such as creating videos and petition websites. These things have a measurable impact, but they’re expensive. A video would cost at least $5,000; additionally, having a PR person amplify the video’s impact is about $5,000. In future they would like to put more resources into the visual advocacy and increasing the impact of the visuals.
The US office of CIWF is trying to raise enough money to become self-funded. This would be around $300,000. They’d also like eventually to be able to feed money back into the UK and global projects. Currently the US staff do not have a physical office, but they meet regularly online and the two staff members in Atlanta do an office share.
CIWF US hopes their funding situation will improve in the coming year because they’ve just hired someone to work three days a week on fundraising. She’s on a temporary contract, so they will have a natural opportunity to check that hiring someone to fundraise has been worth it. They’re mostly focused on applying for grants and getting money from trusts and foundations, because they think that will give the best returns. They don’t anticipate a drastic change, but hope to be self-sustaining by the end of the financial year, which is March 2015.
CIWF has an organizational goal of getting a million voices for farmed animals.
They also track how many articles or tweets are written about their food business program and how many people they reach through different activities. For example their “Secrets of Marketing” video was seen by over 6.5 million people to date with the English version. They estimate nearly 10 million people have been reached incorporating other languages.
They report weekly on their progress on trackable goals. They have specific goals around the Food business program.
They’re hopeful an upcoming video release will be the most impactful thing they’ve ever done to date in the USA. It fits all the intelligence about how to have an impact that they’ve collected to this point.
About 80% of their work is on raising baseline standards, and the other 20% is on highlighting best practices, which they’ve done through a Pasture Poultry Week. They target farm-to-table restaurants, which are all using factory farm chicken, often without knowing that. In 2011 they got companies to sign up to swap out factory farmed chicken for pasture raised, for one week but with the hope that they would convert permanently. In the first year, 30 restaurants participated in the Atlanta area. The next year they went to New York City and 65 restaurants participated. This year they expanded to Charleston and nearly 100 restaurants participated. That’s been a successful way of getting chefs and people concerned with food to talk about how chickens are treated and why they are treated that way. They can easily track how many restaurants are participating but are still working on tracking how many animals are actually affected; this year they gave out a survey that asked restaurants how many chickens were affected at their restaurant and about 6 of 100 restaurants filled it out. For next year they’ll add this type of question to the application they have to fill out to participate in the program. Through this they’ll be able to assess whether the program is worth it.
They’ve made changes to their programs when they see something isn’t going as well as they’d like, for instance with the restaurant program.
They’re always looking for system change and the greatest impact. CIWF is almost competitive internally about those numbers.
CIWF has a CEO, Philip Lymbery and a senior management team consisting of the Director of Food Business, the Director of Marketing, the Director of Campaigns, and the Director of Public Policy. They have low turnover in these positions; the CEO has been with CIWF for nearly 10 years, and most of the management team has been there at least as long as Leah’s been in her current position, which is 3 1/2 years. The previous Director of Food Business left a couple of years ago for a new position, but had been in his job for about 8 years and his replacement was promoted from within CIWF.
Training staff and volunteers
They use volunteers around the Pastured Poultry Week but not much otherwise. There’s a training program for these volunteers, who are given 10 restaurants to target and are responsible for those restaurants throughout the week. They have an induction program for new staff. This involves an orientation to the organization’s strategy and a visit to a farm so they learn about differences in farming methods and conditions.
Their strategic plan is available online. UK charitable status requires that bylaws be available publicly.
They did research cooperatively with ASPCA and shared specific strategies about their food business program where appropriate to ensure where possible their goals are aligned to make the most impact for farmed animals across animal welfare organizations. They’ve also done informal workshops and information and strategy sharing across farm animal protection groups to share learnings and where possible get their messaging aligned.