Sainsbury’s backtracks on chicken welfare
Compassion is disappointed to announce that almost eight years after awarding Sainsbury’s with their Good Chicken Award, the retailer has failed to achieve its higher welfare commitments and is formally withdrawing from the award.
In 2010, at a time when there had been a lot of public attention about the way in which chickens were reared for meat, Sainsbury’s made the decision to raise the level of its welfare standards.
They made a commitment to use a more robust, slower growing breed of chicken and to provide them with more space to live and an enriched environment to allow the birds to express their natural behaviours, such as walking, perching, pecking and dustbathing. However, the retailer has achieved low conversion over the years and has failed to deliver on its promise.
In contrast, over the past 18 months, more than 80 companies in the US (including Subway, Burger King and Kraft Heinz) have made 2024 commitments to improve to the lives of broiler chickens even further by tackling the fundamental problems of fast growing breeds and overcrowding in relatively barren environments, alongside the need for humane slaughter and third party auditing.
And here in the UK, leading retailer on animal welfare M&S recently committed to further strengthen its sourcing policy on chicken by signing up to the criteria of the European Broiler Ask, which aligns with that in the US. M&S are the first retailer to do so across 100% of their fresh and ingredient chicken offer.
Compassion’s Dr Tracey Jones said: “At a time when the UK’s animal welfare credentials need to be stronger than ever, it’s highly regrettable to see a leading UK retailer like Sainsbury’s backtrack on its higher welfare commitments.
“With many other companies bearing the costs to meet the Good Chicken Award criteria, Sainsbury’s decision is not only disappointing, but completely at odds with the growing movement for higher welfare chicken.”
Like any other business decision, commitments on animal welfare should be made for the long term, embedded into a public facing policy and supported at all levels in the business to ensure they can be achieved.
Progress should be continuous and companies should invest in systems and practices that are not only fit for purpose – i.e. they deliver a good quality of life - but fit for the future too, by meeting the growing demand for more ethical and sustainable food.
By not delivering on their welfare commitments – and in fact by completely withdrawing from them - Sainsbury’s is falling behind the curve and not only letting the chickens down but their customers too!
Read more about Compassion’s higher welfare criteria for meat chickens here.