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New report finds that UK supermarket sector is lagging on chicken welfare

Supermarkets across the United Kingdom are lagging behind other food industry sectors on chicken welfare by failing to adopt meaningful improvements on housing standards and sticking with fast-growing breeds.

14 June 2021, at 7:48am

A new report, State of the Chicken Industry 2021, shows supermarkets are the most resistant to adopting meaningful improvements to chicken welfare standards. Despite this, across the sector, companies responsible for a quarter of UK chicken supply are now signed up.

Just two out of the top 10 UK supermarkets have committed to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), a set of measures developed by charities to move away from the cruellest methods of intensively farming chickens.

In comparison, 100% of the top foodservice and meal kit companies are committed, while 70% of the top manufacturers and 50% of the top restaurants have made the pledge.

Vicky Bond, Managing Director of The Humane League UK, said: “Historically, supermarkets have often been the first in the industry to implement measures to advance animal welfare. Now, they are lagging behind, with companies known for value prices like KFC and Greggs leading the way.

“Higher chicken welfare is the future, and in dragging their heels, supermarkets are seriously out of step with the direction of the food industry and public sentiment.”

The report details the recent science from universities around the world showing that there are issues with fast-growing breeds of chicken, regardless of the environment they are raised in. It also collects evidence that slower-growing breeds require fewer antibiotics and are preferred by many farmers as they like seeing the birds more active.

The BCC aims to drastically reduce the suffering of chickens by giving more space, natural light, and enrichment; less painful slaughter methods; ensuring third party auditing; and prohibiting the use of fast-growing breeds. Over 240 UK and EU companies across the industry are signed up, including KFC, Nando’s, Waitrose, M&S, Nestlé, and Kraft Heinz.

It comes as naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham’s petition calling on retailers to adopt the BCC, supported by the RSPCA, Open Cages, Animal Equality and The Humane League UK, reached over 190,000 signatures.

Bond concluded: “I believe that the momentum we are seeing now with companies committing to the Better Chicken Commitment is mirroring the cage-free revolution that took place five years ago, when waves of companies finally committed to eradicating cages for laying hens.

“We must hold supermarkets accountable and ensure they all commit to the Better Chicken Commitment.“