Nestlé has signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, pledging to meet a number of key requirements to improve the welfare of the animals in its supply chain.
More meat chickens are reared each year in the UK than any other land animal and a vast majority are kept in “unacceptable” conditions, according to the RSPCA.
The Better Chicken requirements, drawn up by a partnership of animal protection groups, include the use of higher welfare breeds of chickens and the provision of natural light, more space, enrichment and perching, as well as more humane methods of slaughter.
Globally, chicken is expected to become the largest meat sector in the world by 2020 as other countries also increase production.
But despite this rapidly growing demand, there has been “little progress” on improved welfare, said RSPCA chicken welfare specialist Kate Parkes.
She added: “This January it was 10 years since chicken welfare was highlighted by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and sadly there hasn’t been as much progress as we hoped there would have been.”
Polling by the RSPCA shows that 86% of people who buy chicken meat expect the supermarkets to ensure that it is farmed to higher welfare standards.