Waitrose puts welfare focus on chicken breed

Waitrose & Partners has committed to new, higher welfare standards for broiler chickens in a move which will impact more than 43 million birds each year.

The retailer has joined other brands including M&S, Unilever, Nestle, Danone and Elior Group in signing up to the European Chicken Commitment which requires companies to provide birds with more space and enrichment, to use approved breeds with proven good welfare outcomes, and to introduce more humane slaughter methods.

All of Waitrose’s own-brand fresh and frozen chicken is produced at a stocking density of 30kg/m2 or less, in line with the commitment, and in a stimulating environment through the provision of natural light, perches and pecking substrates.

The retailer has recently turned its focus to breed, conducting trials with a view to moving to a more active, robust breed of chicken.

“The majority of the standards outlined in this new commitment are already in place across our business, which puts us in a great starting position compared with many of our competitors,” said Duncan Sinclair, agriculture manager at Waitrose & Partners. “We will now take the appropriate time needed to identify the best breeds to comply with these standards and will continue to deliver products that have been sourced responsibly and without compromising on taste.”

Welfare charity Compassion, which is one of over 25 NGOs to have drawn up the European Chicken Commitment, welcomed Waitrose’s pledge. “Developing humane, sustainable production systems that provide animals with a good quality of life requires time and effort, and for all stakeholders to be on board. We look forward to working with Waitrose to help them deliver on this commitment,” said Dr Tracey Jones, director of food business at Compassion.

Ikea recently announced that it will extend its commitment to improving the welfare of broiler chickens in its supply chain worldwide, committing to the criteria of the European Chicken Commitment.

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