Friday morning, Walmart announced its positions on the responsible use of animal antibiotics and on animal welfare. The company is now urging U.S. suppliers to Walmart and Sam’s Club stores to adopt and implement judicious use principles for antibiotic use in farm animals, specifically referring to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s principles and the Food and Drug Administration’s Guidance for Industry #209. Recommendations include requiring veterinary oversight, accurate record-keeping and avoiding using medically important antibiotics for production purposes such as growth promotion and feed efficiency. Industry, consumer advocates and veterinarians often have different definitions of “judicious use.” Gail Hansen, senior officer of the antibiotic resistance project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, said that Walmart’s specification is helpful “so that everyone is working from the same starting point.” Hansen said that as the largest grocer in the country, Walmart’s efforts at antibiotic stewardship “is a good thing,” adding that she hopes it spurs others to take similar action. When it comes to the humane treatment of farm animals, suppliers are directed to report and take disciplinary and corrective action in cases of animal abuse. They should also find ways to address animal welfare concerns in housing systems, painful procedures and euthanasia or slaughter. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy For Animals and Compassion in World Farming are taking some of the credit for encouraging the businesses to take these positions on animal welfare. The announcement “is a game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending,” said HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. “Battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates — along with other long-standing practices that immobilize animals — have a short shelf life in our food system.” In order to promote transparency in both antibiotic use and welfare, Walmart would like the suppliers to report their antibiotic management and humane treatment progress and to publicly report antibiotic use and their own corporate positions on animal welfare on an annual basis. Public health advocates are eager to see what comes of the first call for publicly available on-farm antibiotic use data. “Our customers want to know more about how their food is grown and raised, and where it comes from,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president of Walmart’s sustainability division. “As the nation’s largest grocer, Walmart is committed to using our strengths to drive transparency and improvement across the supply chain.” McLaughlin told the Associated Press that the steps are not mandatory and that Walmart is not enforcing any deadlines.