We’re delighted to share the latest TV ad from M&S promoting its OakhamTM Gold slower reared chicken with more space to roam - a standard of chicken that meets all the higher welfare requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) and makes up 100% of M&S' fresh chicken offering.
The ads show that rearing happier chickens makes their farmers happier too!
One of M&S' farmers in Somerset said this of their chickens: "They’ve got more space, they’ve got natural light, they’ve got perches to perch on, they’ve got the bales. It is such a relief to be growing this slower reared chicken."
M&S leading the way
In 2018, M&S was the first UK retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment - a company pledge to introduce higher welfare standards for all the chickens in its supply by 2026.
M&S was the first to start on their transition, successfully securing a commercial deal with its supplier to convert all its OakhamTM chicken to OakhamTM Gold. This involved the gradual laying down of breeding flocks from the slower growing Hubbard breed - birds that have been shown to lead longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives.
M&S is now the first UK retailer to sell 100% BCC-compliant fresh chicken, leading the way in raising the welfare bar for ALL chickens reared for meat.
Why are slower growing breeds important?
Compared to 50 years ago, standard, intensive broiler chickens now grow more than four times as fast and have a breast that is 80% bigger. Such high productivity comes at a HUGE cost to their health and welfare.
Fast-growing chickens have poor walking ability and high rates of lameness. They spend most of their time (85%) sitting doing nothing, instead of behaving like chickens who naturally like to perch, peck, forage, scratch and play. They also have poor immune systems, and suffer from heart defects, high rates of foot and hock lesions, and breast muscle inflammatory diseases.
The Better Chicken Commitment aims to change this and asks companies to only use slower growing breeds with proven welfare outcomes - happier, healthier, more resilient and active chickens.
The BCC also requires that chickens have more space to live (max 30kg/m2), natural light, perches and pecking substrates (e.g. straw bales) to stimulate behaviour, humane slaughter (Controlled Atmospheric Stunning via multiphase gas stun/kill systems), and checks on their welfare with meaningful third-party auditing and annual reporting.
We need to galvanise the UK market
The changes M&S has made are testament to its dedication to improving the lives of chickens in its supply. As a retailer, it is doing its bit to help transform the market so that higher welfare chicken can become the baseline standard for all consumers. But we need others to get on board.
Some retailers have introduced a BCC-compliant tier, such as ‘Room to Roam’ in Tesco, but typically this makes up a small proportion of the chicken on the shelves. Sainsbury’s has reduced its stocking density in line with the BCC but has yet to commit to breed change which is central to affording chickens a better quality of life.
Retailer commitments are essential to help build supply at pace and scale and to enable market access for others. It is vital that ALL UK retailers sign up to the BCC to galvanise market transition and make higher welfare chicken the industry norm.
Kick-start your transition to better chicken welfare
Companies that have signed up to the BCC need to push forwards with their transition and report progress annually.
Having a public-facing commitment is an important first step, however mapping out a route to implement the BCC criteria, and importantly acting on it, is critical if higher welfare chicken is to become the new baseline standard.
Real success can be achieved by:
- more companies signing up to the BCC to stimulate demand for higher welfare chicken;
- more producers being willing to supply to the BCC standard, supported through long-term contracts;
- creative marketing and labelling to encourage consumers to support higher welfare chicken through their purchasing choices.
M&S has led the way with the introduction of its higher welfare OakhamTM Gold chicken and with this latest campaign promoting the benefits of its higher welfare, slower reared chicken!