Rivals battle to promote higher poultry welfare standard

2 UK farm assurance schemes have introduced new labelling to promote higher welfare broilers as interest in the Better Chicken Commitment continues to grow. It also enables them to differentiate UK chicken from other imported birds post Brexit.

  • Higher animal welfare is becoming a good marketing instrument for differentiation. Photo: Ronald Hissink

    Higher animal welfare is becoming a good marketing instrument for differentiation. Photo: Ronald Hissink

RSPCA Assured

Earlier this spring, RSPCA Assured launched a series of icons to help display its farm animal welfare standards more clearly for retailers. The charity said it wanted to help convey the essence of what RSPCA Assured does “in a visually pleasing and yet simple way”.

Icons are based around the following areas:

  • More space to roam around
  • Natural daylight and shade for free range birds
  • Raised perches to perch on
  • Managed to a dedicated set of welfare standards
  • More daily inspections
  • Straw bales and other objects to peck at
  • Sand or other materials to encourage dust bathing
  • Slower growing breeds
  • Welfare assured from birth to slaughter

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Red Tractor Food Assurance

And now Red Tractor Food Assurance has launched a new marque covering enhanced welfare for chicken, to help people looking to buy birds that have been raised to specific production methods. The new marque retains the company’s union flag and distinctive tractor with the heart in the wheel sitting on a “tick” but replaces the words Certified Standards from the core logo, with the farming method used.

Each new marque will have its own colour:

  • Free range for Chicken – Orange
  • Enhanced welfare for chicken – Purple
  • Organic – Green

Chief executive Jim Moseley said he hoped the new approach could strip out some of the complexity from labels on pack and menus.

The enhanced welfare birds must come from:

  • A slower growing breed
  • Have had more space and natural light in barns to encourage natural behaviours like pecking, scratching, wing flapping and use of perches
  • Have been reared to a lower stocking density 30kg/sq metre compared to 38kg/sq metre

Brain cells indicate hen welfare
Dr Tom Smulders, a neuroscientist, says that the welfare of the birds is actually a function in their brain. “So you should also be able to see in the brain of the animal whether it feels good.”

Mr Moseley added: “Underpinned by the safety and traceability of our core standards, the “Enhanced Welfare” range uses selective breeds, such as those from the slower growing Hubbard portfolio, which are reared indoors and have more room to grow for longer.”

Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at welfare group Compassion in World Farming, welcomed the introduction of the enhanced welfare bird initiative: “It is an important enabler for companies who want to source to this standard and the marque provides a clear visual identity which, along with the free-range and organic labels, allows consumers to understand how their chicken was produced and make informed choices.” Red Tractor has the highest awareness among the UK’s primary shoppers of all other marques, according to a You Gov survey last November, being recognised by 70 per cent compared to 31% for Soil Association and 24% for RSPCA Assured marques.