The Food Marketing Institute released its long-awaited guidelines for the humane treatment of farm animals. The guidelines are the first comprehensive document on the topic.

Although compliance with the guidelines by producers is voluntary, animal rights groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been pressuring restaurants and supermarkets to force their suppliers to adhere to the guidelines.

Although the guidelines are contested by some farm groups, the development of these guidelines recognizes that animal welfare concerns by consumers are not going to diminish.

“This is the first time that the retail industry has clearly said the issue of farm animal welfare is important to it,” said Karen Brown, senior vice president of the Food Marketing Institute, to the Washington Post. Developing this document is one way to make sure the issue gets the attention it deserves, and to take a proactive stance.

FMI, which represents most of the nation's supermarket owners, in conjunction with the National Council of Chain Restaurants, spent about two years developing the guidelines. The recommendations were reviewed by and received the support of seven leading animal welfare experts who were brought in by numerous trade associations to review the guidelines.

PETA officials termed the new guidelines "revolutionary" in their reach. But noted in many instances the guidelines are less stringent than those already adopted by such companies as McDonald's. McDonald’s was the first major company to require suppliers to meet animal welfare standards and to "audit" the suppliers' performance.

You can review the guidelines by clicking here. (James link to http://fmi.org/animal_welfare/62602finalrpt.pdf

The Washington Post