For nearly 60 years Winterbotham Darby has been supplying high-quality, chilled food produced in Europe to the major retailers and foodservice businesses in the UK.

Specialising in three key areas – continental meats, olives & antipasti and plant-based, the business has a unique offering. With an end-to-end supply chain it is possible to track products from grower or farmer and slaughterhouse, right through production, technical approval, manufacturing, supply to in store. In addition, unique category insight enables their teams to identify market trends, positioning them as category leaders in a wide range of products many of which that fundamentally changed the eating habits of the UK.

Welfare journey
With a strategic objective to take a leadership position in welfare, their journey into higher welfare began in 2000. Shortly after in 2002 they launched their first farm-assured scheme.  Fast forward to 2012 and they began working with Compassion in World Farming. In 2015 they achieved their first Good Sow Award – no small achievement as this was for an Italian farm – where welfare isn’t high on the agenda for many farmers.  They have since gone on to gain a Good Pig Award in their original Italian farm, with other farm partners in Italy and Spain following.

Pig standards accredited
After three years work of research and writing a welfare standard, the dedicated animal welfare team gained UKAS accreditation for their European Farm Partnership (EFP) pig module.  This module, the first of its kind, is a pan-European system which outlines three levels (bronze, silver and gold) of welfare.

Farms certified to the gold tier will operating to the highest welfare standards in Europe.  Uniquely the standard covers the entire element of the supply chain; breeding (freedom farrowing, space etc.), rearing, finishing, transport and slaughter. It also takes into account health & welfare – commitment (space, light, no surgical procedures) antibiotic usage & medicine, feed, veterinary procedures, biosecurity, pest control.

The standard is currently being used on some Winterbotham Darby farms and will be in place in all farms by 2022. There is also the potential for the standard to be used for other farms / customers across the UK and Europe. There has been some interest from retailers, NGOs and government departments.

CIEL and Winterbotham Darby
Winterbotham Darby joined CIEL in 2016, to underpin their leadership position in animal welfare.  Keen to be at the forefront of academic and scientific research to further animal welfare developments, CIEL membership gives Winterbotham Darby direct access to this.

Motivated by the research witnessed on recent visits to CIEL’s Academic Members Newcastle University and SRUC, Winterbotham Darby’s 2019 Animal Health and Welfare Day programme features a number of CIEL institution members speaking on topics such as freedom farrowing, technology used to identify animal welfare issues, humane halal slaughter and economics of welfare amongst other topics.

The company are also due to begin working on research project to develop a biosensor to instantly detect diseases on pig farms which will identify potential problems early. This will ensure that the farm can react quickly to reduce spread of the disease and reduce the level of antibiotics used on farm.

Being a member of CIEL has developed and expanded our knowledge about new technologies in development and early stages of implementation and opened our eyes to the academic world and the passion and work involved. It has also introduced us to new companies and industries to collaborate with in the future and given us the great opportunity to invest and become part of research projects.

David Houghton, Technical Director, Winterbotham Darby