Dutch retailer Jumbo is introducing a range of new sustainability measures in its poultry operations as part of its move away from intensive broiler production.
The company has announced this week that it is switching, by mid-2019, to selling chickens in-store that have been fed immediately after birth.
It means that birds sold under its New Standard Chicken will get water and feed immediately after they are hatched. Until now, chickens often have to wait up to 48 hours before they are fed as they have to wait until the rest of the birds have been hatched.
Klaas de Boer, Jumbo director of buying and merchandise, said the company in recent years had been at the forefront of making poultry more sustainable and the transition to direct feeding of chicks was an important next step.
“The living conditions of chickens have been improved considerably by the New Chicken Standard and we are continuing to take steps with this standard in the area of sustainability,” the European Supermarket Magazine reported.
Jumbo is also testing hatching in barns on poultry farms sourcing the company and directors say the results so far have been positive.
“In this way, farmers also gain knowledge of the method of direct nutrition and its influence on the development of the chicks,” said de Boer.
And the company has also been implementing sustainable practices in the use of packaging, recently introducing laser labelling on organic fresh fruit and vegetables.
Changes are taking place across the Dutch poultry retail and slaughter industry, in part due to the pressure levied by Dutch welfare group Wakker Dier, which has been calling for the rapid withdrawal of regular broiler chicken from supermarket shelves.
However, some analysts are becoming concerned that the Dutch may be going too far. Ellis Draaijer, technical poultry consultant Benelux at Elanco Animal Health, said recently that the chicken she considered sustainable was no longer on sales in supermarkets which was unfair.
“I can imagine one would have chosen chicken concepts that offer more space per bird, but still keep efficiently growing birds instead of slower growing strains. This is a lot better for the environment.
“We do know that concepts are not necessarily better in terms of animal health, even though this is often suggested.”