November 6, 2013
Patagonia Announces Move to 100% Traceable Down
Patagonia Inc., the outdoor apparel company, is proud to announce the company's move to 100% Traceable Down across its entire collection of down-insulated products, starting in the Fall 2014 season. Patagonia Traceable Down is sourced from birds that have been neither force-fed for foie gras production nor plucked for their feathers and down during their lifetime. Six years in the making, Patagonia's Traceable Down standard provides a robust assurance of sound animal welfare…please see the full press release here
Patagonia Traceable Down Is Verified Non-Live-Plucked, Non-Force-Fed
As of spring 2013 we use Patagonia Traceable Down in our Ultralight Down products. It comes from white geese that were neither force fed for foie gras production nor plucked of their feathers and down while they were still alive. Patagonia Traceable Down also provides robust assurance of sound animal welfare. We intend to add Traceable Down styles each season.
The lengths we go to verify Patagonia Traceable Down go far beyond written guarantees, supplier self-certifications or partial audits. We authenticate chain of custody of our white goose down using our newly developed, holistic traceability audit that includes physical inspection of the supply chain from farm to garment factory, interviews with workers and all of the paperwork in between. The audit is performed by an independent, third-party, traceability expert.
We are still using gray goose down in many of our down products while we work to shift our supply chain to the exclusive use of Patagonia Traceable Down. The gray goose down we use is not live-plucked, but it is force-fed to produce foie gras.
Continue reading to learn a little about the production of down and down products. You’ll also see a history of our efforts to examine our down supply chain, our discoveries and challenges, and the actions we’re taking to adopt the best possible long-term practices.
We use goose down in insulated garments because of its excellent performance. Down has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic insulation, and it is more compressible. The higher the grade of down, the more efficient the insulation. We also offer garments with synthetic insulation – in different weights, grades and styles – to meet our customers’ varied needs.
Down clothes are tricky to make in two ways. First, special care has to be taken to safeguard workers who fill and sew the garments. Down rooms have to be sealed off from other areas and workers have to wear masks to keep from inhaling the fiber. We have worked with our factories to ensure healthy conditions for people who work with down and even developed a special down health-and-safety audit checklist.
More difficult to control is the treatment of geese. Live-plucking, in which feathers are removed from live geese before they molt, is said to be akin to having one’s hair pulled out. Force-feeding geese to fatten their livers in the production of foie gras is another controversial practice.
Timeline of Our Efforts
Our suppliers are forthcoming, but what we learn does not sit well with us. Four Paws is correct: We are unwittingly using down from force-fed geese raised for foie gras and meat. We don’t see any evidence of live-plucked down in the parts of the supply chain we visit. And we verify that the slaughterhouses we inspect take steps to ensure they do not buy live-plucked birds and that they contract with the goose farms to specify that there is no live-plucking. This is bolstered by occasional audits of those farms.
Existing chain of custody documentation provides good traceability of down from the farm level to the slaughterhouse thanks to Hungarian food industry laws. The chain of custody, however, is not as robust from slaughterhouse to down processors. We begin implementing a plan to improve document linkage and the labeling and separation of our down at all levels of the supply chain, including the garment factories, to ensure that we get no live-plucked material.
We also begin looking at other down supply chains where live-plucking and force-feeding of geese is illegal. Our materials team visits Poland to investigate potential new down sources, and we approve one source (that has limited capacity) for use in a range of styles.
During the three-month period, auditors assess more than a dozen sites over seven field days, including a down garment factory in China, a down processor in the U.S., and various international down processors, slaughterhouses and farms - including a parent goose farm (where eggs are produced) and a hatchery. The auditors evaluate animal-welfare practices against the August 2012 version of the Patagonia down standard, as well as European Union and individual countries’ laws pertaining to animal welfare. To measure robustness of traceability of the supply chain, our expert looks at the hallmarks of good traceability: documentation trails, physical labeling and segregation of down, and management systems. She then verifies the system’s robustness through the tried-and-true supply chain auditing methodology of document review, observation and worker interviews.
We receive reports at each stage of the assessment in each country. They include assessment summaries, analysis of gaps in tracing systems, good practices and a final score for animal welfare and overall traceability management systems. We also receive a final summary report linking all site visits and one final quantitative score for traceability management systems and animal welfare/live-plucking/force-feeding.
To our knowledge, no other company has gone to such lengths to assure chain of custody.
Patagonia has a history of affecting change in supply chains, and we are hopeful to do it with down. In this spirit, as of spring 2013, our entire collection of Ultralight Down clothing uses white down from geese that have been verified by an independent, third-party traceability expert to be non-live-plucked, non-force-fed. It is our hope to expand this offering each season as we build up a Traceable Down supply chain based on our Down Supply Chain Animal Welfare Standard.
To improve down supply chains across the board, we are participating in the formation of an Outdoor Industry Association and Textile Exchange Down Task Force, part of the Materials Traceability Working Group. The goal is to foster collaboration among brands and suppliers to establish traceability standards and methodologies for down products and supply chains. Traceability will allow brands to verify claims about the down used in their products, including whether the geese that supply it have been live-plucked or force-fed.
In the meantime, the caveats we first raised to Patagonia customers in spring 2011, and updated in December 2011, still apply. Vegans whose avoidance of animal products extends to shoe leather may want to avoid down clothing. And those who believe foie gras should not be produced or sold may also want to avoid our gray down products. We continue to offer high-quality garments insulated with synthetic materials as alternatives. Thanks for your interest. We will continue to discuss this issue as things develop.
White Goose Down
White goose down is a byproduct of the meat industry, just like grey goose down. Ours comes from Poland, whose laws governing the husbandry of geese differ from those of Hungary. White goose down is collected at the slaughterhouse after the geese are killed for their meat. The white geese in our down supply chain are not force-fed, live-harvested or live-plucked.
Gray Goose Down
The use of goose down in consumer products is not without controversy. Animal rights groups have sensitized many of us to some of the inhumane practices associated with this industry. The gray goose down we use in many of our insulation products comes from Hungary, where it’s collected at the slaughterhouse after gray geese are killed for their meat and fatty livers. The Hungarian gray geese in our down supply chain are not live-plucked, but they are force-fed.