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New range of higher welfare chicken hits retail shelves

So far over 100 companies have signed up to the European Chicken Commitment (ECC), with Carrefour France most recently joining key brands such as M&S, Waitrose, KFC, Casual Dining Group, Unilever, Compass Group, Elior and Danone.

21 February 2020, at 12:49pm

The ECC requires companies to switch to a more robust and active breed of chicken, and to provide them with more space to live and a stimulating environment – all important factors needed for a good quality of life.

Compassion’s Director of Food Business, Dr Tracey Jones, says: “Momentum is building, and we are on the cusp of a significant change for broiler chickens. Over 40 companies in the UK have signed up to the ECC so far, and we know many more are interested in assessing how they can adopt the same practices across their businesses.

“It’s no small task meeting the requirements of the ECC, and it’s going to take considerable collective action from all stakeholders in the supply chain including suppliers, retailers, manufacturers and food service companies, as well as the assurance schemes, industry bodies and ultimately the consumer, to achieve market success.”

M&S was the first UK retailer to pledge support for the ECC in January 2018 and two years down track they have successfully launched a higher welfare chicken range that meets the ECC on their whole chicken and chicken portions into two thirds of their stores, with a view to rolling it out across their entire indoor-bred chicken offer by 2026 or sooner.

Tracey Jones adds: “We applaud M&S for taking the market lead on this. While commitments are an important starting point for companies, signalling their need for a higher welfare standard from their suppliers, paced and sustained transition are essential if this better chicken is to become a commercial reality, which is why the M&S product on shelf today is so important.”

For now, M&S are promoting the new range under a ‘Corn Fed’ label using the term ‘slower grown’ to differentiate it from their well-known Oakham range which are reared to similar standards, except for the use of fast growth-rate breeds. Aldi is also trialling an ECC standard product for a short period of time.

Due to the additional cost of production, consumers are expected to pay more for the higher welfare chicken, so marketing the product well is therefore a number one priority.

Tracey Jones explains: “Bringing consumers on board with the new product is going to be key. As more companies start selling this higher welfare chicken, compelling consumer messaging and promotion with a strong visual identity are going to be essential to build consumer loyalty and maintain their purchasing choice.

“The industry is starting to work on this and it may take time to develop an agreed, joined up approach. However, it is the right thing to do for animal welfare and for those consumers who expect higher welfare standards and want to make an informed choice.”

For further information on the European Chicken Commitment (ECC), or how to get involved in industry led working groups and Compassion’s forums, please contact the Food Business Team.