UK upmarket retailer Marks and Spencer is to become the first supermarket to only sell slower-reared, higher welfare chicken across its full range of fresh poultry products.
From Autumn 2022, all fresh chicken sold by Marks and Spencer will be slower-reared, British and RSPCA Assured, demonstrating the retailer’s commitment in this area. The slower-reared birds are fed on a multigrain diet, specifically designed to support slower natural growth and muscle development.
Stuart Machin, company managing director, said the firm had a long history of leading on animal welfare and were the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the first to move to 100% free range eggs, and all its pork is reared outdoors.
“We already have the biggest range of RSPCA Assured products on the market but we constantly want to raise the bar – that is why we are making this industry-leading commitment. It will lead to a step change in UK farming standards and show customers that our determination to maintain the highest welfare standards means they will always get exceptional quality and trusted value.”
Clive Brazier, RSPCA Assured chief executive, said the company was now the first retailer to move all of its fresh chicken to RSPCA Assured, which would provide more choice for welfare-conscious shoppers: “It’s a major achievement for helping improve chicken welfare. This bold move means many thousands more chickens will have better lives on farms inspected to the RSPCA’s strict welfare standards.”
Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive, described Marks and Spencer’s actions as a landmark achievement for animal welfare, which “we hope will set a leading example for others in the sector.”
The announcement came in the same week that the European Commission set out its commitment to come up with a legislative proposal by 2023 to prohibit cages for a number of farm animals as part of changes to animal welfare legislation as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy. This will cover laying hens, pullets, layer breeders, broiler breeders, quails, ducks, and geese as well as other livestock.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the aim was for “a cage-free environment for millions of animals.” The Commission plans for laws to come into effect from 2027 subject the necessary phasing out period and impact assessments.