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Feed control is not an alternative to breed change

Most of the modern broiler breeds are the result of decades of genetic selection to obtain a fast-growing and higher breast yield chicken. This intense selection for performance traits has had negative repercussions on the health and welfare of the birds.

The Better Chicken Commitment requires companies to adopt breeds able to demonstrate improved welfare outcomes. Those breeds are typically slower growing, as slower growing breeds are generally healthier, have better locomotion, are more active and display more natural behaviours than fast-growing birds1,2.

In order to reduce the health and welfare issues associated with fast growth, especially lameness and mortality, there have been attempts to reduce the growth rate of fast-growing birds by strictly controlling their feed intake (i.e. feed restriction). Although it is not widespread, some degree of feed restriction has been proposed to improve the feed conversion rate and performance of fast-growing broiler chickens3. In some cases, feed restriction of fast-growing broilers is also used to rear those birds for longer, typically in outdoor systems requiring an older slaughter age, or even to be able to market the birds as “slower growing” in some countries.

The potential welfare implications of feed restricting broiler chickens have not been properly investigated in the literature to date. However, it is known to be a major welfare concern in broiler breeders, where it is commonly performed to optimize egg production, leading to prolonged hunger and frustration4.

Slowing down the growth of birds from a fast-growing strain through feed restriction may not only lead to additional welfare concerns such as hunger and frustration5 (to be further investigated), but is also an illogical and inefficient strategy, and one that cannot be acceptable on welfare and ethical grounds. Those birds should not be marketed as “slower growing” as this is highly misleading to the consumers. Instead, there is an urgent need to phase out fast-growing breeds and to adopt BCC-approved slower growing breeds* with proven higher welfare outcomes.

* The breeds currently approved under the BCC in Europe are Hubbard Redbro (for indoor use only); Hubbard Norfolk Black, JA757, JACY57, 787, 957, 987, Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic and Ranger Gold. Other breeds that meet the criteria of the RSPCA Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment Protocol, the breeds under the Label Rouge certification and other local breeds used in free-range systems with an average growth rate lower than 40g/day, are also accepted”.


  1. Dixon, L. M. Slow and steady wins the race: The behaviour and welfare of commercial faster growing broiler breeds compared to a commercial slower growing breed. PLOS ONE 15, e0231006 (2020).
  2. Baxter, M., Richmond, A., Lavery, U. & O’Connell, N. E. A comparison of fast growing broiler chickens with a slower-growing breed type reared on Higher Welfare commercial farms. PLOS ONE (2021).
  3. Gobane, Z., Goni, S., Chikwanda, D. & Zhou, L. The Effect of Quantitative Feed Restriction Duration on Growth Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Broiler Chickens. Open J. Anim. Sci.
  4. Decuypere, E. et al. The Broiler Breeder Paradox: ethical, genetic and physiological perspectives, and suggestions for solutionsy.
  5. Trocino, A. et al. Effect of Feed Restriction on the Behaviour and Welfare of Broiler Chickens. (2020).

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