Sainsbury's has set new animal welfare standards for its dairy farmers to accelerate its bid to become the most welfare-friendly supermarket.

The retailer's Dairy Development Group farmers have been issued with a three-page document setting out new standards, such as a requirement for the number of lame cows in a herd not to exceed 10% by 2011, and 5% by 2012. The industry average is currently in excess of 40%.

Most existing farm assurance schemes focused on inputs, such as livestock housing, as indicators of high on-farm animal welfare, said Sainsbury's head of agriculture Annie Graham. However the new standards focused on outcomes such as the individual welfare of each cow.

"The targets and aspirations of the 'outcomes approach' will ensure better animal welfare, improved production and greater business efficiency," she said.