This post’s target demographic is the huge population in the center of this Venn diagram with me. Hello? Anyone else there?
While watching the World Cup, I noticed a curious ad plastered across the pitch-side advertising boards: Marfrig, qualidade em carne.
I know zero Portuguese, but my Spanish-based powers of deduction suggested that Marfrig might be a major Brazilian meat company worth checking out. Brazilians love their beef, so I figured Marfrig might be focused on quantity rather than sustainability and ethical treatment. Here’s what I learned:
- Among their primary focus areas are production, processing, preparation, sale and distribution of beef, pork, lamb and poultry, and leather
- They operate vertical production chain poultry and pork operations in the US under the name Keystone; Moy Park is their UK division. Fun fact: if a South American team is leading a World Cup match, Marfrig is the brand on the ad board, and if a European club is leading, Moy Park is displayed.
- In 2011 the Marfrig Group entered into a partnership with Jamie Oliver to sell products under his brand in the UK
Blah blah blah. Lots of businessy speak about profits and brands and diversification and portfolios, but what about the animals?
The Marfrig Group is managed by an experienced team committed to the highest standards of corporate governance and environmental responsibility.
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. Please go on.
We currently operate 183 processing plants, distribution centers, feedlots and offices in 17 countries in South America, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. We have a daily slaughtering capacity of 20,730 head of cattle, 3,726,860 chickens, 11,179 head of pork, 41,000 turkeys and 11,900 lambs.
So they can churn through lots of animals quickly. That doesn’t make me optimistic about their treatment of those animals. Oh, but wait, the first item on their Strategy page is this: Invest in organic growth. That’s promising! No… they don’t mean that kind of organic, they mean they’re going to invest in their current infrastructure. Reading on… what about their sustainability practices?
The Marfrig Group considers it a moral duty to prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals. The Group’s animal welfare programs seek to guarantee the safety and humane treatment of animals, through internal rules and regularly audited procedures, as well as investment in the implementation of modern technologies, which led to the upgrade of facilities and pens, the laying of anti-slide floors and new forms of rearing and logistics.
The Company also seeks to implement innovative techniques to improve the welfare of animals. For example, transportation equipment in the United States was recently fitted with temperature controlling technology. This effort led to an increase in live birds on arrival during instances of extreme climates.
The Company offers to its integrated producers and partners qualifying courses ministered by professional instructors in the areas of animal nutrition, rearing and well-being, aiming to provide new tools and knowledge to maximize production in a sustainable way.
In 2013, a report from the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare commended Marfrig in improvements in animal welfare policies and reporting. Said Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, about the report: “The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare has played a catalytic role in putting farm animal welfare on the business agenda. It has pushed companies to acknowledge farm animal welfare as a business issue and, critically, it has forced them to take action.” As a result, farm animal welfare is becoming both a business risk and a source of competitive advantage.
Last year, Marfrig joined with The Nature Conservancy to promote sustainable cattle farming in the Amazon. That program is mostly concerned with forest management and water and soil use, but also, interestingly, includes a tracking system so consumers will know where their beef was sourced from, giving more transparency to the production process. They have worked with Greenpeace to decrease the impact of cattle operation in the Amazon, with Walmart to improve energy use and reduce waste and emissions, and the treatment systems at some if its facilities generate carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol.
I started off my random little research project expecting to find Marfrig to be a cold corporate behemoth, but despite being a multi-national processor of thousands of animals per day, it has some really positive qualities, and is a leader in showing other companies that improving animal welfare can be a good business practice. The moral of the story is: Tim Howard is a beast.