The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Technomic released a co-authored report on Monday, summarizing the grocery retail landscape for products that bear the animal welfare-related claims. The report — "Understanding Retailers' Animal Welfare Priorities" — says supermarket industry decision makers are motivated to stock products with claims and certifications that indicate better animal welfare are are seeing the benefits of doing so through strong sales.

However, the report also notes that retailers largely do not understand the differences between animal welfare claims, which are unverified and often undefined, and animal welfare certifications, which are verified and backed by audits and robust standards.

"We are encouraged by the fact that retailers are responding the consumers' demand for products that promise better animal welfare," says Nancy Roulston, director of corporate engagement for ASPCA's Farm Animal Campaign. "However, this survey reveals confusion about which labels and claims are meaningful and which are empty marketing – fueling further confusion for shoppers and creating an environment ripe for 'welfare washing.' It is critical that retailers recognize which animal welfare claims are meaningful and relay that knowledge to their shoppers."

Key findings include:
The vast majority of retailers report they already stock products with one or more claims around animal welfare. 
Between 40 and 50 percent of retailers report stocking products with verified animal welfare certifications, compared to 71 percent stocking unverified "all natural" products. 
Over 70 percent of those that state they are already stocking products with verified animal welfare certifications report that sales from these products have increased over the past three years. This level of reported success is similar to that of more mainstream claims like "all-natural" and "organic". 
Over 30 percent of those surveyed are interested in stocking more products specifically describing humane treatment of animals. 

"Food retailers of all types are facing challenges in adapting to a changing marketplace.  Most are working hard to meet these challenges of quickly evolving shopper behavior and mounting financial pressures. In turn, only a select group have the resources available for proactive, ongoing education around claims and certifications.  While many anticipate a strong opportunity for products with certified animal welfare claims, it is clear that the extent of that opportunity will be tied to having easy access to accurate information that will help build their understanding and that of their shoppers," says Wade Hanson, Principal of Technomic, Inc.