THE RSPCA has banned its farmers from “thinning” their poultry flocks in a bid to improve welfare and drive down incidences of campylobacter.
Thinning, or depopulation, is commonly used within the indoor-reared chicken industry to maximise the number of birds that can be reared within a shed over a given period of time. The process involves rearing the birds to the maximum stocking density permitted and then removing a proportion of them to lower the density. This can take place several times before all the birds are finally removed from the shed.
A study by the European Food Safety Authority linked the practice to increased rates of campylobacter in chickens.
Some supermarkets have already banned thinning as they attempt to reduce levels of campylobacter. Others are not prepared to pay the extra costs, however, said to be about 10p per bird.