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Leading Danish poultry producer to phase out fast-growing broilers

One of Scandinavia’s leading poultry producers is to move to a slower growing broiler breed in a move that animal welfare campaigners have described as a “game changer”.

Denmark’s largest poultry producer Danpo has said it will phase out its use of the fast-growing Ross 308 breed in favour of the slower growing Ranger Gold breed due to animal welfare issues. Danpo, which is part of the Stockholm Stock Exchange listed Scandi Standard, has 85 farmers on Funen and Jutland producing nearly 50 million birds a year, and prides itself on 100% traceability, salmonella free meat and action plans on foot pad burns.

Slower growing birds are one of the key issues highlighted in the European Chicken Commitment. Photo: Ronald Hissink
Slower growing birds are one of the key issues highlighted in the European Chicken Commitment. Photo: Ronald Hissink

The company says it will phase out Ross 308 birds by late 2021. Chief Executive Officer Mark Juel Hemmingsen said: “Danpo wants to make a positive impact on animal welfare in the industry. Danpo needs to be competitive in the future. “Therefore, I am extremely happy that several companies and consumers are joining our journey for better animal welfare.”

Lidl first retailer

The move follows Lidl Denmark’s announcement in February that it would be the first retailers in the country to eliminate Ross 308 birds from its supply chain. Production of slower growing broiler breeds is one of the key issues highlighted in the European Chicken Commitment, which has won support from companies as diverse as Marks and Spencer and KFC. Dutch retailers began to move to slower growing breeds in 2014 and now around 40% of birds sold are from this sector. There are also growing markets in both France and the UK.

Evaluation of meat from slow-growing broilers
A study evaluated carcass quality, composition and consumer evaluation of meat from slow-growing broilers compared with commercial broilers

Key welfare improvement

Connor Jackson, Open Cages UK Chief Executive Officer, said moving the broiler market away from fast-growing industrial chickens to slower growing birds was key to improving chicken welfare. “A few years ago companies began phasing out cage-eggs. Now we are seeing the same development with fast-growing chicken breeds. This is testament to a very unique breakthrough for animal welfare in Europe.” Animal welfare campaigners say the fast growing nature of breeds such as the Ross 308 can cause lameness, breathing problems and organ failure. The Ross 308 breed is still the world’s most popular breed and, according to breeding company Aviagen, is valued by its customers for its growth rate, feed efficiency and consistent performance.