A second UK supermarket plans to launch an “affordable” range of high-welfare poultry by introducing a new breed of slower growing chicken next year.
Morrisons is working with its farmers to introduce the Redbro chicken into the UK at a lower stocking density. The breed, produced by Hubbard, is particularly popular in Iberia, and the supermarket will work with welfare charity Compassion in World Farming to create a standard for raising the birds.
The news follows Tesco’s announcement of its RSPCA Assured Room to Roam range last April. The range will meet the Better Chicken Commitment’s range of measures to improve bird welfare but the company has not signed up to the BCC, leaving just Waitrose and Marks and Spencer as the only major UK supermarkets commitments to the scheme. KFC, Nandos and Pizza Express are among major food service operators to sign up to the BCC.
Sophie Throup, Morrisons head of agriculture, said the company was committed to improving animal welfare, which was important to its customers and to the firm itself. “We want to support the Better Chicken Commitment by starting right back at the farms and breeding birds specifically to launch a dedicate range. This is on top of the higher standards of chicken welfare we already have with our farmers,” she added.
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Morrisons say their barn born and raised policy goes beyond the BCC and that they are the first retailer in the UK to have 50% of its chicken come from birds hatched straight into the houses in which they are reared. They claim that:
• In-house hatching allows the birds immediate access to feed and water which is not the case in traditional hatcheries, where birds utilise the yolk to provide nutrition and hydration.
• The barn born system also means that the birds hatch in the building that they continue to be raised in, so there is no handling and transport of chicks.
By 2026, Morrison say it intends 100% of its fresh chicken to come from birds raised to this in-house hatching standard.
Some animal welfare groups believe the retailers are playing games around the BCC. The Humane League said it had serious concerns with the Morrisons pledge. “The Better Chicken Commitment isn’t a range, it’s a commitment to raise all chicken sold to meet or exceed these standards. It was devised by leading animal protection groups with the aim of raising baseline standards in which broiler chickens are raised. For the millions of chickens still suffering in intensive farms under their care, a “new range” – which could be a little as 1% of their supply – does little.”