The RSPCA welcomed Nestlé’s move last week to commit to significant improvements in chicken meat welfare by having all of its suppliers under one standard by 2026 or risk being cut off.
Those who comply will ensure chickens sold come from higher-welfare environments, being provided with natural light, more space and with enrichment – such as straw bales and vegetables to peck – as well as more humane methods of slaughter.
The UK charity stressed that Nestlé’s decision should be a “wake-up call” for retailers as most of the UK’s 950 million chickens live in “unacceptable” conditions.
Chicken is expected to become the largest meat sector in the world by 2020, according to the RSPCA, which believes there has been little progress made on welfare despite rapidly growing demand.
The RSPCA’s chicken welfare specialist Kate Parkes said retailers needed to realise that animal welfare could not continue to be ignored.
“This move by Nestlé is another great step for meat chickens and consumers and we are really pleased that a food business ‘giant’ like Nestlé has jumped on board,” said Parkes.
“Retailers can often ‘justify’ the selling of chicken reared to lower-welfare standards by citing they are providing both ‘consumer choice’ and a range of price points. However, in reality, this gives little choice to consumers on a budget other than to purchase intensively reared chicken.”
The RSPCA recently conducted a poll showing that eight out of 10 (86%) UK shoppers expected supermarkets to ensure that the chicken meat they sold was farmed to higher welfare standards.
Marks & Spencer is the only known retailer that has pledged to the ‘Better Chicken Commitment’, with German food and beverage brand Knorr also making the pledge.