RSPCA Assured surveys consumers on eating spent hens

27-03-2017 | |
RSPCA Assured surveys consumers on eating spent hens. Photo: Alexander Caminada
RSPCA Assured surveys consumers on eating spent hens. Photo: Alexander Caminada

Farm animal welfare group RSPCA Assured is looking into consumers’ attitudes on eating spent hens.

The move follows calls in a recent edition of Channel 4’s ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’, where the pair raised the idea about high street chicken shops selling meat from ex-laying hens.

The programme featured a taste test with a bunch of customers in a chicken shop and found the diners preferred the flavour of the free-range laying hen and would be happy to pay more for it.

UK spent hens exported or used as pet food

RSPCA Assured admitted that currently there is little market in the UK for end of lay hens with the bulk of them being frozen and shipped abroad or used for pet food.

While the current RSPCA Assured poultry scheme requires farmers to use specific higher welfare breeds that are slower growing than conventional broilers, it is asking for feedback on whether consumer would be willing to give meat from laying hens a try.

4/5 of survey respondents react positive to hen meat

In its twitter feed, RSPCA Assured carried out a survey, and while numbers responding were low, more than four fifths of respondents said they would be happy to try eating laying hen meat.

“In some parts of Asia they don’t differentiate between meat and egg laying chickens. Instead, they use the same bird for both eggs and meat – a far less wasteful approach than we have adopted in the west,” it said.

“But with trials in Germany to develop breeds that could serve this dual-purpose, perhaps it won’t be long before the UK follows their lead.”

Lohmann Dual: Dual-purpose chickens

Lohmann have for a number of years been working on their new breeding line, “Lohmann Dual” in response to growing criticism of conventional practices in modern egg production. The breed supplies both egg and meat.

Female birds reportedly lay around 250 eggs a year while the males make respectable broilers – by the age of 70 days. It also removes the controversial issue of male chick culling.

Earlier this year, as reported by Poultry World, the RSPCA announced it was planning to ramp up pressure on the UK poultry meat sector with a ‘big push’ on welfare conditions on broiler units. Head of farm animals Mark Cooper said the charity hoped to bring about change on broiler farms on a scale seen in the egg sector’s move from colony farming.

Tony Mcdougal Freelance Journalist