UK: RSPCA campaign against poorly reared chickens

The RSPCA launched a campaign yesterday for retailers to stop selling cheaper meat from chickens bred in poor conditions and only to sell chicken that is free-range or organic or produced according to its own standards by 2010.

The charity believes that consumers should be prepared to pay more for what it calls 'higher welfare chicken'.

Estimates are that the majority of the 855 million chickens reared for meat in the UK are kept in cramped, badly lit spaces. Only 5% are reared in higher welfare conditions.

A full-page advertisement appeared in four UK newspapers in the form of an open letter to retailers from the RSPCA. TV chef, Jamie Oliver, will also run a one-off show called 'Jamie's Fowl Dinners' in which he will attempt to convince retailers to improve what he calls "the hideous realities of industrial chicken production".

An RSPCA animal scientist, Dr Marc Cooper, commented that if consumers knew how the average chicken for their Sunday roast was treated before it ended up on their plates, they would be appalled.

He stated further that some chickens are available for around £2 (€2.60) per kilo, which is less than it costs to produce the bird, which means farmers may be taking short cuts when rearing the animals.

An online petition has been made available to consumers to put more pressures on retailers -

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