RSPCA Better Chicken Commitment

Source: Compassion in World Farming 

UK retailers were singled out in CIWF’s new Chicken Track report over their slow progress

More UK supermarkets will need to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment if the British poultry sector is to “raise the baseline standard of chicken”, Compassion in World Farming has urged.

While the UK, with 18 companies, was second only to France in Europe in terms of total sign-ups to the BCC, the fact only two of the businesses were supermarkets (M&S and Waitrose) was holding back the rollout of the scheme, warned Compassion’s second annual Chicken Track report, published today.

By comparison, all of France’s major retailers had signed up to the scheme, CIWF said.

To comply with the BCC, businesses need to adhere to a suite of welfare commitments, ranging from the implementation of a maximum chicken stocking density of 30kg/m² or less, and the adoption of slower growing breeds such as the Hubbard and improvements around light. Air quality improvements and more humane slaughtering techniques – such as controlled atmospheric stunning using inert gas are also mandated.

Many UK retailers, such as Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Morrisons had made recent commitments to reduce the stocking density of their chicken to 30kg/m², CIWF noted, while some were offering a ‘tier’ of BCC-compliant chicken – such as Tesco’s ‘Room to Roam’ or Morrisons’ ‘Space to Roam’.

But without breed change, “which is central to affording chickens a better quality of life”, their chicken “cannot be considered higher welfare”, the animal welfare group insisted – pointing to how only M&S had actually completed a full transition to 100% BCC-compliant fresh chicken.

Why hasn’t the Better Chicken Commitment found its wings?

The majority of European companies were “falling behind on two key areas: moving to slower growing breeds and reducing stocking density, both of which are pivotal to delivering the full welfare benefits for chickens reared for meat”, the report found, as it urged businesses step up the “road-mapping” to the successful implementation of all BCC criteria.

M&S and Waitrose, along with Danone, Monoprix, Nando’s and Schiever Distribution (France) were the only businesses out of a total of 85 across Europe that met at least one BCC criteria. And only producer Norsk Kylling achieved 100% compliance across all of the BCC, the report revealed.

“We want to see significant progress on commitments this year ahead of the 2026 deadline,” it urged. Since January 2018, more than 200 food businesses across Europe have publicly committed to meeting the standards of the BCC no later than 2026.

“There is much to be done in the 12 months ahead. Key sectors still need to get on board, such as the UK retail industry, which has huge influence and can help stimulate the market as it shifts towards higher welfare,” the report added.

“It is undoubtedly a challenging time, but we need to keep pressing ahead. As progress is made, and we see bigger changes, millions more broiler chickens will start to lead healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives.”

It comes as campaigners supported by CIWF this week launched legal action against the European Commission over its failure to deliver its commitment to ban caged farming.