If I believed everything that I read in my news channels, social media feeds or inbox, then I might start to think there is a problem……
Supermarkets are falling behind……
“Over 200 food companies have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment across Europe. In the UK this includes fast food restaurants like Burger King, KFC and Nando’s, yet the supermarkets are lagging behind with only M&S and Waitrose fully committed.” https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/cheapchicken
UK supermarkets lag behind on chicken welfare
“Only upmarket retailers Waitrose and Marks and Spencer have committed to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC). In comparison, 100% of the top foodservice and meal kit companies, 70% of the leading manufacturers and ⅖ of the top restaurants have made the pledge.” https://www.poultryworld.net/Meat/Articles/2021/6/UK-supermarkets-lag-behind-on-chicken-welfare-764723E/
Do UK supermarkets really lag behind on chicken welfare?
Fortunately, I’m an informed consumer of both news and chicken and in my opinion, the answer is NO; in fact quite the opposite.
The key word is “Commitment”; 100% of foodservice and meal kit companies have “committed” to BCC. This means they have made a promise to source chicken from BCC compliant supply chains by 2026.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a huge commitment and will make a phenomenal difference to chicken welfare, if everyone keeps their promises. Many companies have made the commitment but have no understanding of what it will take to achieve this goal. Others are working hard to engage with their supply chains and drive change. There are very few who are able to enact this commitment today; so nothing has actually changed yet.
Does the industry have a good track record on achieving these commitments?
Similar campaigns are running for removing gestation stalls from the North American supply chains and for caged-free egg production.
World Animal Protection highlighted in their 2020 Quit Stalling Report, that 30% of the businesses that had made public commitments to removing gestation crates from their supply chains, had now removed this commitment from public materials on animal welfare.
Similarly Compassion in World Farming 2020 Egg Track Report states that of the 210 companies with public cage-free egg commitments, 4% have rescinded the commitment and 3% have missed their deadlines.
Whilst UK retailers are reluctant to make a commitment to moving 100% of their chicken to be BCC compliant, the market leaders all have product on their shelves today which equals or betters the BCC requirements. What is more, many have had these ranges available for many years. UK retailers are in business to provide their customers with choice; their ranges are largely consumer driven.
Buy, buy, buy.
The way to drive the campaign for better chicken welfare forward at speed, is not to run smear campaigns against retailers or join celebrities in signing petitions. It is for consumers to put their money where their mouth is and buy higher welfare chicken. Leave the “standard” chicken on the shelves (even when it has enticing promotion labels or reduced to clear stickers on it) and empty the shelves of all the higher welfare brands. This will show the retailers that consumers are committed to wanting to improve chicken welfare and the rest will follow. A simple case of supply and demand; if you show the retailers that you want it, then it will be there.
Making the path easier for others
UK retailers have driven welfare improvements across the poultry industry for years. Many insist that birds are slaughtered using controlled atmosphere systems (a requirement of BCC) and the UK industry has invested heavily to meet this need.
Because retailers do have ranges that require slow growing breeds and have worked tirelessly with the British poultry producers to develop production systems that best suit their needs, others can now follow.
The industry has the know-how, the breeds are commercially available, in theory there is nothing stopping us.
It is not supermarkets, but consumers that need to demonstrate their commitment to better chicken, by buying the products and accepting that none of this can be achieved without investment, which must be reflected in the cost.
Campaigns have their place in raising awareness across a wide consumer base, reminding them to take their moral compass with them when they “eat out” or “order in”. They can raise the profile of animal welfare issues and through peer pressure, engage with businesses which otherwise may have remained oblivious to the opportunities for change.
If you are a business that has signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment but have yet to plot your roadmap to achieving your goals or don’t know where to start when it comes to reporting your progress, I would be happy to support your journey. We all need to work together to achieve the overall aim of better chicken welfare. Happy to take your call on 07496649779 or email an enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Egg Track 2020 Report, Compassion in World Farming https://www.compassioninfoodbusiness.com/media/7442448/2020-eggtrack-report-english.pdf
Quit Stalling , World Animal Protection https://dkt6rvnu67rqj.cloudfront.net/cdn/ff/3qrpu-LG-bkdjfYt0lgOHlzwtFx7W1oXVjSozRdG6v8/1603304018/public/media/Quit_Stalling_book_Updated_compressed.pdf