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UK's Morrisons makes advances in bird welfare

Advances in bird welfare were achieved last year by Morrisons, British farming’s largest direct supermarket customer.

In its annual farm animal welfare progress report, Morrisons revealed progress in all of its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in its laying hen supply chain.

Morrisons, British farming’s largest direct supermarket, met its 100% free-range target last year – 5 years ahead of its commitment for shell eggs. Photo: Michel Velderman
Morrisons, British farming’s largest direct supermarket, met its 100% free-range target last year – 5 years ahead of its commitment for shell eggs. Photo: Michel Velderman

Despite the hot weather in summer 2020, mortality rates fell from 4.18% in 2019 to 3.59% in 2020, while keel bone damage dropped from 39.72% in 2019 to 27.04% last year.

A move to 100% free-range/organic

Morrisons said the better figures were, in part, due to the move to 100% free-range/organic sourcing. The 100% free-range target was met last year – 5 years ahead of its commitment for shell eggs. The proportion of cage-free ingredient eggs is also up 4% to 59% from 55% in 2019.

Broiler meat

Poultry meat KPIs were partially met. Cases of pododermatitis, which reached more than 30% in 2019, fell back to 17.65%. The company said good litter management and bird gut health contributed to the significant decline in pododermatitis presence in its broiler supply chain.

Heat challenges

Mortality rates rose slightly from 4.21% in 2019 to 4.5% due to the extreme summer heat. The company said significant steps had been taken with its major supplier to improve temperature management systems in its broiler houses.

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Other welfare achievements

Lower stocking density in transport modules and increased ventilation were also being put into practise to curb issues around dead-on-arrival. Finally, the company reported a 100% rate for no beak trimming and no desnooding in its broiler and turkey supply chains.

Mindful consumers

Welfare concerns continue to resonate with many UK consumers. A recent Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board release highlighted that 18% of shoppers were mindful of animal welfare issues when shopping.