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Sainsbury’s animal welfare standards have dropped during the past year and now rank behind Tesco, Greggs and McDonald’s, according to a new report.

The retailer fell down a tier in the annual Business Benchmark on Animal Welfare (BBFAW) audit, which provides a review of how 99 of the world’s leading food companies manage and report farm animal welfare practices.

The report, compiled in collaboration with Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection and investment firm Coller Capital, said Sainsbury’s was yet to show it had addressed recommendations on animal welfare outlined by BBFAW during the past two years, and as a result, its scores had been reduced.

In response, Sainsbury’s said it took animal welfare “extremely seriously”. It was “proud to have a strong track record in ethical sourcing”, added a spokeswoman.

“Working in partnership with farmers we have, over a number of years, significantly improved the health and welfare of cattle, pigs and poultry. There is always more that can be done, and we have a robust strategy in place for the next few years that ensures we continue to meet and further improve our high welfare standards,” she said.

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose remained among the top-ranked companies in the table, while Cranswick also rose to the top tier. Tesco and Greggs jumped up to tier two, alongside Co-op, McDonald’s and Unilever.

“We’re delighted with our performance in the fifth global farm animal welfare report,” said Claire Lorains, category director meat, agriculture and local at Tesco. “Our BBFAW scores are testament to the hard work of our team, producers and suppliers over the years to continuously improve animal welfare across our food supply chain.”

Morrisons also rose in the rankings from tier four to three due to the retailer’s policy commitments to avoid the use of close confinement, reduce the routine use of antibiotics and avoid long-distance transport for livestock in its supply chain.

“With 26 companies moving up at least one tier since 2015, there is a clear indication that the food industry is finally starting to treat farm animal welfare as an important business issue,” said Nicky Amos, BBFAW executive director.

“Despite this progress, 42 of the 99 companies (including Restaurant Brands International, Domino’s Pizza Group Plc and Starbucks Corporation) appear in tiers five and six, demonstrating there is still much work to be done to even get farm animal welfare on the business agenda of many large global food companies.”