Teresa Fernandez, European CSR and Sustainability Senior Manager at HILTON FOODS, discusses aquatic welfare: changing practices, consumer perception and how retailers and producers should respond.

Teresa Fernandez, European CSR and Sustainability Senior Manager, HILTON FOODS
Teresa Fernandez, European CSR and Sustainability Senior Manager, HILTON FOODS

With the changes to legislation on aquatic sentience, how are farming practices shifting globally?

The truth is that legislation is not changing quick enough and there is only a handful of countries making improvements to Blue Food welfare. Farming practices are changing to comply with retailers’ requirements, and farmers are realising the benefits that better welfare has, such as improved product quality.

Despite an increasing amount of research around animal welfare, we are far from fully understanding the needs of all seafood species. In some instances we’re applying learnings from others species, which is not wrong, nevertheless it still raises questions as to whether we are meeting the individual animals’ needs.

How are consumer demand and public perception changing around welfare practices? Is this driving a need for ethically raised and harvested retail products?

Consumers are demanding more information, and they are starting to understand what welfare looks like for seafood. However, the main driver for animal welfare is linked to science rather than public perception.

There is a deeper knowledge of welfare in farmed aquatic animals, however consumers do not have as greater understanding of welfare in wild capture fisheries.

There is a movement to higher welfare standards, and we see that in aquaculture certification, but this is not the only driver to achieve ethically raised and harvested products. To achieve this, we also need to look further, to the implications on people in our supply chain and in broader sustainability terms such as carbon footprint or biodiversity.

How are retailers and producers responding to expanded knowledge within welfare and sentience?

Retailers are demanding more, and rightly so, and producers have the knowledge to implement changes in their operations. In the past animal welfare has been looked at as a series of input measures like stocking density and monitoring farm assurance. Today the move includes welfare outcome measures like survival, with retailers expecting farm managers to optimise outcomes.

We shouldn’t forget that improving welfare, in many cases, increases the running cost of the farms. This can be a very frightening step for farmers, especially if there is little certainty as to whether it is going to be improve standards. Who is going to pay for it, and who will reap the benefits?

To make improvements, farmers and producers will need partnerships across the full supply chain, and need commitment and assurance that we’re not going to drop them if prices increase. At Hilton Foods we appreciate this.

Meet Teresa in London on May 16-17 at the Blue Food Innovation Summit, where she will join the panel ‘Aquatic Welfare & Harvest: Strengthening Standards and Driving Welfare-Focused Technologies’ with experts from ACE AQUATEC, SHRIMP WELFARE PROJECT, FAI FARMS, NEW ENGLAND SEAFOOD and MARKS AND SPENCER.