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Higher welfare raised birds hitting retail shelves in Europe

Increasing numbers of companies are signing up to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) with some higher welfare birds now available on retail shelves.

So far, more than 100 companies have signed up to the BCC, including most recently major French supermarket company Carrefour France. Other brands which have also signed up include Danone, Elior, Unilever and KFC.

Meat products produced under the Better Chicken Commitment scheme can be found in more and more supermarkets. Photo Hans Banus
Meat products produced under the Better Chicken Commitment scheme can be found in more and more supermarkets. Photo Hans Banus

The BCC requires companies to switch to a more robust and active breed of chicken and to provide them with more space to live and a stimulating environment.

We are on a cusp of a significant change for broiler chickens.” – Tracey Jones, Compassion in World Farming’s Director of Food Business

Carrefour France

Carrefour France said it was working with producers to improve the rearing, transport and slaughterhouse conditions covering all of its branded chickens.

Among the changes Carrefour will implement are:

  • rearing birds without antibiotics
  • rearing birds without GMOs
  • external auditing of hatcheries, livestock buildings and slaughterhouses

The higher welfare standards will be reflected on new animal welfare labels. “These major changes are the first steps towards bringing about the conditions defined in the Better Chicken Commitment, with which we want to be in full compliance before the end of 2026. We would like our European partner countries to trial this animal welfare labelling system,” it said in a statement earlier this month.

Marks and Spencer UK

Meanwhile, UK-based retailer Marks and Spencer has launched a higher welfare chicken range that meets the BCC standards. Products include whole chicken and chicken portions, which are being promoted under a “Corn Fed” label using the term “slower grown” to differentiate from their well-known Oakham brand.

It is clear the adoption of BCC standards will add to the cost of chicken production...” – ADAS study

Cusp of change for broiler chickens

Tracey Jones, Compassion in World Farming’s Director of Food Business, said momentum was building: “We are on a cusp of a significant change for broiler chickens.” She said the next step was to bring European consumers on board: “As more companies start selling this higher welfare chicken, compelling consumer messaging and promotion with a strong visual identity are going to be essential to build consumer loyalty and maintain their purchasing choice.”

Increasing costs of poultry production

Not everyone in the European poultry industry is happy with the changes. An ADAS study for the UK’s National Farmers’ Union released at the end of last year said adopting measures in the BCC will raise costs. “It is clear the adoption of BCC standards will add to the cost of chicken production, mainly due to poorer feed conversion rates (FCR) and an extended cycle length due to slower growth rates. “Since fewer birds can be stocked in a house, the output (total liveweight) will be lower and the costs per square metre of growing space will be higher.”