Sales of Higher Welfare Chicken Booming

UK - Sainsbury's has reported that its higher welfare chicken sales are up 60% on last year, and it has a launched a new higher welfare range to meet the growing demand.
calendar icon 8 August 2008
clock icon 5 minute read

Sainsbury's - one of the country's leading supermarkets - has more than doubled its range of higher welfare chicken as demand continues to grow despite the credit crunch. The new range, reared on farms inspected by Freedom Food to strict RSPCA welfare standards, hit its stores on 6 August.

The company has launched the new range to satisfy the rise in consumer demand for higher welfare chicken. Sales of higher welfare chicken have risen 60% since January 2008 when TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched campaigns to raise public awareness of animal welfare.

"I am really excited that Sainsbury's are supporting farmers like myself to convert farms to Freedom Food scheme and I'm sure it will be a great success in store"
Doug Ramsey, poultry farmer

In spite of the credit crunch, shoppers have not lost their desire to buy ethically sourced products and according to YouGov research commissioned by Sainsbury's, nearly two out of five shoppers (38%) said that they are actively looking for food which doesn't compromise on how it is sourced and is good for the environment.

Sainsbury's expects the demand for Freedom Food chicken to continue to grow as it has done in recent years. In 2006, higher welfare chicken represented 14% of Sainsbury's total chicken sales; now, following the launch of the new Freedom Food labelled chicken, nearly one-third of all chicken sold at Sainsbury's will be higher welfare.

Sainsbury's will sell an estimated 7.5 million British Freedom Food assured chickens per year, which means that it aims to be the biggest retailer of higher welfare chicken in the UK.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said, "Sainsbury's commitment to upgrade the minimum welfare standards of all their fresh chicken to the RSPCA welfare standards over the coming years will improve the lives of millions of British chickens, and this new initiative is clearly the first major step along that road. I welcome it wholeheartedly."

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury's brand said, "When we met Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last year, we said that Sainsbury's would do everything it could to improve chicken welfare while providing our customers with choice and good value. This is why we have launched a new range of chicken which has been reared to standards set by the RSPCA and inspected by Freedom Food.

"We knew that higher welfare chicken sales would go up following the Channel 4 food series in January however, we are thrilled to see that customers have continued to buy chicken reared to higher standards. It demonstrates the strength of feeling for animal welfare issues and that with greater availability of affordable options our customers don't have to compromise."

Welfare standards for the new range have been set by the RSPCA and are inspected by Freedom Food, which means that customers can buy higher welfare chicken for around £0.75 extra per whole chicken than standard reared chicken. The chickens are a slow growing breed and during their lives, the chickens enjoy more space and stimulation, with straw bales, perches and bright objects to peck at to encourage natural behaviour.

Rowen West-Henzell, food policy manager for Compassion in World Farming commented, "It is tremendous to see Sainsbury's showing such leadership by taking chicken welfare seriously. Moving towards RSPCA Freedom Food as a minimum standard will genuinely improve the lives of millions of chickens and shows a clear response to consumer concern in this area."

Sainsbury's has worked with poultry farmers up and down the country who have invested in converting to the Freedom Food scheme to help the company meet the increasing demand for higher welfare chicken.

Welsh poultry farmer Doug Ramsey who supplies Sainsbury's said, "I have been involved in chicken farming for 25 years and have always been committed to improving welfare standards. I am really excited that Sainsbury's are supporting farmers like myself to convert farms to Freedom Food scheme and I'm sure it will be a great success in store."

YouGov research also revealed that 29% of shoppers said that they are buying Fairtrade products and 19% are buying organic products despite the credit crunch. Only 8% of shoppers reported that they no longer buy ethical products because of the credit crunch.

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