A number of leading animal protection agencies have joined forces in a bid to improve the lives of broiler chickens in the UK.
Chickens farmed for meat, called 'broiler' chickens, account for 95 percent of all land animals farmed in the UK. They have been selectively bred over many decades to prioritise fast growth and big breast muscles. Consequently, chickens now grow so big, so fast, their bodies can’t keep up. Their legs can’t cope with the weight of their upper bodies, so they suffer from leg pain and lameness. Their hearts are under pressure, and they often die prematurely from heart disease. 95 percent of broiler chickens in the UK are raised on standard, intensive farms.
The Humane League, Compassion in World Farming, and Animal Equality are among the groups that have created the Better Chicken Commitment [BCC] - a set of standards for companies to sign up to and meet. The standards laid out in the BCC eliminate the worst health issues relating to fast growth, reduce overcrowding, and provide a better living environment for chickens.
So far multiple businesses have signed up to the Commitment.Azzurri Group, which operates Zizzi and ASK Italian, became the first restaurant group to commit to the Better Chicken Commitment. In addition, Pret A Manger signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment. within four hours of the campaign being launched.
According to The Humane League: "While Pret A Manger already met five out of the six criteria in these standards, it uses breeds of chicken which grow so large so quickly that their bodies can't keep up, many suffering from health problems as a result.
"Providing chickens with enrichments and improvements is meaningless until they change the breed to breeds with better welfare, because their suffering is such that they can't make use of them or appreciate them."
The Humane League is confident that welfare standards can be improved through the agreement.
Vicky Bond, Managing Director of The Humane League UK, said: "We commend Azzurri Group for taking the lead on this issue, becoming the first restaurant to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment. These meaningful changes are set to benefit the lives of millions of chickens, and we encourage other companies who care about the welfare of animals in their supply chains to follow suit."
The group adds that: "Over the past few years, the vast majority of the UK food industry has committed to eradicating cages for laying hens in their supply chains. Now, it is expected a similar movement to reduce suffering will happen for broiler chickens."