Source: M&S

M&S is now sourcing the Hubbard breed in line with its Better Chicken Commitment pledge

Marks & Spencer will only be selling 100% slower-reared and RSPCA-Assured fresh chicken across the UK from today (7 September).

The grocer has now moved to a Hubbard breed in line with the Better Chicken Commitment, the chicken welfare policy that addresses issues related to breeding for fast-growth and high-yield, as well as housing, stocking density and slaughter.

The new slower-reared breed follows a multigrain diet, has more space to roam as well as more pecking aids and perches to encourage natural behaviour.

M&S first announced its intention to source all fresh chicken from slower-growing breeds last year, thus becoming the first major UK retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment.

“At M&S we have a long history of driving animal welfare standards across the industry,” said Andrew Clappen, M&S Food technical director. 

“When it comes to chicken, we want to keep raising the bar to improve welfare – it’s something we know our customers care deeply about and we do too.

“Improving animal welfare is an important part of our trusted value commitment – we are introducing slower-reared, higher-welfare chicken offering better quality and better flavour for our customers.”

The interim CEO of RSPCA Assured, Mike Baker, said that M&S’s move was “the biggest positive change to chicken farming in a generation” adding he hoped it would “set a leading example for other retailers”.

Read more: Why M&S is making its ‘better’ chicken commitment

While M&S did not disclose how much it had spent to move to the slower-reared birds, it said it was a “significant investment”.

Earlier this summer, the supermarket locked the prices of over 100 products in its Remarksable value range, including chicken wings (750g for £1.30), chicken drumsticks (600g for £1.25) and chicken legs (600g for £1.20).

The prices would remain the same even though the chicken breed was now different, it said.

In order to raise awareness about slower-reared chicken, M&S will air a special episode of its Fresh Market Update series across ITV and Channel 4 from 3 October.

“We applaud M&S for leading the UK retail sector, having successfully transitioned their entire fresh chicken supply to the criteria of the Better Chicken Commitment,” said Tracey Jones, global director of food business at Compassion In World Farming.

“Making higher0welfare chicken the baseline standard for consumers is a priority for Compassion and we urge all retailers to follow their lead, so that we can drive the market towards better chicken for all.”