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Elevating Animal Welfare: A Conversation with Dr. Laurie Mack on Ethical Supply Chains

Laurie Mack, PhD, is a recognised animal welfare expert. Having served as Head of Animal Welfare at The Kraft Heinz Company, Laurie forged partnerships with suppliers and customers alike, building a better supply chain. She demonstrates an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement in animal welfare. Prior to Kraft Heinz, Laurie's role as a field operations manager for the American Humane farm animal welfare program granted her invaluable insights into the intricacies of ethical animal treatment. Armed with this unique blend of corporate and field-level perspectives, she brings a wealth of knowledge to the table.

In this illuminating conversation, we engage with Dr. Laurie Mack to unravel the complexities of ethical and humane treatment of animals within supply chains. Drawing from her expertise, Laurie sheds light on key principles, sustainable practices, and the pivotal role businesses play in safeguarding animal welfare.

Statement from Laurie Mack for considering all animals for animal welfare


BeeAware: What are the key principles and practices that define ethical and humane treatment of animals in supply chains, and how can businesses ensure their adherence to these principles?

Mack: The Five Domains model provides a framework for assessing animal welfare in which the four physical and functional states - nutrition, environment, health, and behaviour -, all impact the fifth domain: mental state. This model advances the concepts initially delineated in the Five Freedoms, in part because it considers positive experiences. Businesses can help ensure humane treatment in their supply chain by developing a science-based animal welfare program, aligned with the Five Domains model, that includes third-party auditing of all production stages for their supply chain.

BeeAware: Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and intensive animal agriculture have come under scrutiny for their treatment of animals. How can supply chains transition to more humane and sustainable practices, and what benefits do these changes offer?

Mack: The scientific research shows that the size of a farm is not an indicator of the animal welfare. Large and small farms have different advantages and disadvantages regarding animal management. For example, large farms may have more specialised care; whereas small farms may be able to provide outdoor access. Well-designed, science-based animal welfare programs and auditing of those programs provide confidence in a humane supply chain. This benefits businesses as both investors and consumers value such ethical, transparent practices.

BeeAware: How can companies ensure transparency and traceability in their supply chains to verify the humane treatment of animals? Are there technological advancements that facilitate this?

Mack: There are several new technologies that assist in tracing animals and their products through the supply chain. These include electronic ID tags which allow farmers and ranchers to individually identify animals, maintain health records, and track animal movements. This information can be retained through processing by attaching a barcode to a cut of meat or product until it reaches its destination. These technologies can greatly reduce the impact of a disease outbreak which is beneficial for both human and animal health.

BeeAware: How can companies navigate the trade-off between greenhouse gas emissions and animal welfare when raising animals under more ethical conditions (like longer life and more space) means also increasing their carbon footprint?

Mack: Companies can focus on strategies that both improve animal welfare and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. For example, animal health management benefits the animals and decreases resource use. Healthy animals can optimise their growth as they do not need to spend energy to fight disease. Likewise, the mortality reductions resulting from improved health also benefit the animals and reduce resources used and lower GHG emissions. Other mutually beneficial strategies include improving nutrition, genetics, and grassland management.

BeeAware: How can businesses strike a balance between meeting consumer demands for ethically sourced products and managing the potential increase in production costs associated with higher animal welfare standards?

Mack: By offering product choices, businesses can meet the demands of various consumers. Some consumers will choose to purchase higher welfare products, such as pasture-raised. But many consumers cannot afford pasture-raised products. However, other animal welfare improvements, such as low stress animal handling, health programs, and providing enrichments can be cost effective. By implementing an animal welfare program for the entire supply chain, businesses can meet both consumer needs and humane production standards.

BeeAware: This year’s theme for World Animal Day is “Great or small, love them all”, what does that mean when we look at supply chain?

Mack: Often when farm animal welfare is addressed, the larger and more photogenic animals, such as cattle and pigs, are prioritised. People empathise readily with an adorable piglet or a sweet-faced dairy cow. These biases can even be codified in legislation. In the United States, the Humane Slaughter Act protects all livestock except poultry. And until recently, farmed fish were almost entirely excluded from the conversation about animal welfare. As we consider animal welfare in the supply chain, we must move beyond current biases and consider ALL the animals we rely on for food - from the tiny honeybee to the 600kg steer.


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