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Campaigners call for improvement in chicken welfare

Food businesses are being urged to prioritise higher welfare chicken as part of a transformation of the poultry sector.

Compassion in World Farming this week published its first report on companies’ progress towards meeting the ‘better chicken commitment’ (BCC), which requires businesses to achieve higher welfare criteria including lower stocking densities, the use of slower growing, more robust breeds and provision of natural light and enrichment.

The 2022 ChickenTrack report tracks progress on 73 commitments made by 60 companies selected based on their geographic relevance and size. Of the 73 commitments, 31 report progress, 27 report progress against specific criteria, four report progress against full BCC compliance, while 42 do not report progress.

Compassion said it was unsurprising that 58% of commitments have reported no progress since many companies are in the early stages of their transition, however it added “we hope and expect to see year-on-year improvement as the market begins to shift at scale”.

In total, over 350 companies in Europe and the UK have signed up to the BCC to date. There have been more than 120 commitments from both national and international companies in the UK with the majority coming from the out of home sector.

Among the standout progress delivered in the first reporting period, Compassion highlighted Greggs which is 53% compliant for stocking density and 64% compliant for enrichment, and Papa Johns which is 60% compliant for stocking density, 50% for natural light, and 56% for enrichment.

The welfare charity urged companies that have yet to sign up to the BCC to join the movement and for those that are yet to report or prepare their implementation roadmaps to act now.

“Higher welfare chicken should be a priority for all food companies,” said Tracey Jones, global director for food business at Compassion. “Chickens are sentient beings and deserve a good quality of life as well as a humane end. By using more robust breeds and providing them with better living conditions they can live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives. It is possible and it’s what consumers expect.”

Jones added: “When decisive commitments are taken with collective effort, alongside responsible investment, determined implementation and proactive marketing, these higher welfare standards are not only commercially viable but transformational for the whole sector.”