First European ChickenTrack report to monitor progress of ‘Better Chicken Commitment’
Compassion in World Farming has launched its first annual European ChickenTrack Report to measure company progress towards meeting the higher welfare requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC).
The 2022 Report provides a baseline for tracking year-on-year industry progress.
Over 350 companies in Europe and the UK have signed up to the BCC to date. The 2022 ChickenTrack reports on 73 commitments made by 60 companies selected based on their geographic relevance and size. It shows that 31 (42%) of the commitments (across 27 companies) have made progress with 12 commitments (16%) reporting 100% compliance with at least one of the BCC criteria. However, it says more than half of commitments (42) across 37 companies (58%) are not reporting progress at all.
Only Norwegian producer Norsk Kylling is said to be 100% compliant across its entire chicken production and just four company commitments (5%) report progress against full BCC compliance – REMA 1000 at 96%, Eroski at 39%, Elior at 22% and IKEA at 3%.
ChickenTrack details improvements across the six specific BCC criteria:
- stocking density (the most reported criteria for 25 commitments), average transition 30%
- breed change (reported for 21 commitments), average transition 21%
- natural light provision (reported for 23 commitments), average transition 43%
- enrichment provision (reported for 24 commitments), average transition 47%
- controlled atmospheric stunning (CAS) (reported for 19 commitments), average transition 54%
- auditing to BCC compliance – reported by one company only, M&S
Given the international backdrop of the continued impact of the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation and the continued prevalence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), Compassion in World Farm said it is encouraging that progress is being reported. However, despite these challenges it said it is imperative that companies continue to work on developing their implementation roadmaps and ongoing building blocks for success to enable a smooth transition at scale when the economic environment improves.
There have been more than 120 commitments from both national and international companies in the UK, the majority coming from the out-of-home sector which includes contract caterers, Quick Service Restaurants, and other food outlets. Two of six UK producers, PD Hook (Hatcheries) Ltd and 2 Sisters Food Group have pledged to supply chicken to the BCC standard.
However, only two UK retailers have signed up to the BCC: M&S and Waitrose. M&S is the first company in the UK to transition 100% of its fresh chicken successfully, under the Oakham Gold, RSPCA Assured label.
Vivienne Harris, Agriculture manager, M&S said: “At M&S, we are absolutely committed to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) and are delighted to be on this journey – the first UK retailer to sell only 100% BCC-compliant fresh chicken under our Oakham Gold brand. We want to keep raising the bar to improve chicken welfare, and our slower-growing birds are now more active and resilient. Since the introduction of Oakham Gold, we have received lots of positive feedback from our customers.”
Other UK retailers have introduced a BCC-compliant fresh chicken tier however, this makes up a small proportion of their full chicken offer.
Tesco brought in its ‘Room to Roam’ range in April 2020 and Morrisons introduced its ‘Space to Roam’ range in February 2021. Sainsbury’s announced plans to reduce the stocking density of its own-brand chicken to 30kg/m2 by March 2023, but is said to have yet to commit to breed change.
Retailer commitments are essential to help build supply at pace and scale and to enable market access for others, claims Compassion in World Farming. It therefore urges all UK retailers to sign up to the BCC to galvanise market transition and make higher welfare chicken the industry norm.
This has already happened in France where since September 2021, all the major French retailers have signed up to the BCC, creating a dynamic impetus in the market there.
There are 27 commitments reporting progress against specific criteria, and these can be broken down by sector:
- 12 are from retailers or meal kit providers (transition ranges from average 37% for breed to 76% for CAS) and include companies like Auchan and Group Casino in France which have 93% and 100% transition on breed across all their own-brand fresh chicken, respectively. In the UK, M&S is 100% compliant on all their fresh chicken (30% of all chicken they sell) and the remainder is 100% compliant on natural light, enrichment and CAS slaughter. Waitrose & Partners is 100% compliant on natural light, enrichment, CAS slaughter and stocking density, but not breed change.
- 9 are from restaurants (transition ranges from average 9% for breed to 51% for enrichment) and includes Greggs which is 53% compliant for stocking density and 64% compliant for enrichment and Papa Johns which is 60% compliant for stocking density, 50% compliant for natural light and 56% compliant for enrichment.
- 2 are from foodservice and hospitality businesses including Compass Group which is 44% compliant on natural light, enrichment and third-party auditing and Sodexo which is 9% compliant on stocking density.
- 4 are from manufacturers (transition ranges from average 7% for breed to 43% for CAS) including Danone EU which is 70% compliant for stocking density, natural light and enrichment, 60% compliant for CAS systems and 20% compliant on breed change.
Béatrice Javary, Responsibility and Social Innovation director at Auchan Retail France, commented: “Since 2019, when Auchan France joined the BCC, we have been offering a range of fresh chicken which incorporates several of the BCC criteria – slower-growing breeds, reduced stocking density and natural light. Reporting on the progress we are making in our transition to implementing the BCC is an essential part of our approach, and this transparency is appreciated by everyone in our supply chain and our consumers.”
Chris Wells, Sustainability and Farm Animal Welfare manager, Greggs said: “We are committed to promoting animal welfare and are proud to participate in the 2022 ChickenTrack report. It provides an important means of monitoring and reporting progress and is consistent with our commitment to improving the welfare of chickens and ensuring that all chicken stocking densities are no more than 38kg/M2, as outlined in The Greggs Pledge. In 2023, 50% will be at a maximum of 30kg/M2 and the remainder, no more than 38kg/M2. We have conducted trials with a higher welfare breed to test product quality and to understand cost implications. We look forward to continuing to work with Compassion in World Farming and the European Chicken Commitment working groups as we work towards fulfilling their requirements to improve the welfare of chickens.”
Dr Tracey Jones, global director for Food Business at Compassion, concluded: “Higher welfare chicken should be a priority for all food companies. Chickens are sentient beings and deserve a good quality of life as well as a humane end. By using more robust breeds and providing them with better living conditions they can live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives. It is possible and it’s what consumers expect.
“When decisive commitments are taken with collective effort, alongside responsible investment, determined implementation and proactive marketing, these higher welfare standards are not only commercially viable but transformational for the whole sector.”
Compassion urges those who haven’t joined the BCC to sign up, and those that are yet to report or begin their implementations to act now.