UK retailer Sainsbury's has returned its 'Good Chicken Award' to welfarist charity Compassion in World Farming [CIWF].
The supermarket was given the award in 2010 after making a public commitment to provide their chickens with more space, natural light and enrichment and to introduce a more robust, slower growing breed of bird.
But according to CIWF, while company commitments should be met within five years under its Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards criteria, less than 20 percent of Sainsbury's fresh chicken is currently higher welfare.
Sean Gifford, CIWF's Head of Public Campaigns, said: "After eight years, we’ve had to call time on this situation. By going back on its word, Sainsbury's is consigning millions of animals to a life of misery in overcrowded sheds, where the chickens are selectively bred to grow so big, so fast, that many struggle to walk, and some develop serious heart conditions."
According to CIWF, despite Sainsbury's position, chicken welfare is 'still very much on the corporate agenda', with more than 80 companies in the US making commitments to improve the lives of meat chickens by 2024.
Dr Tracey Jones, CIWF's Director of Food Business, said: "It's extremely disappointing to see Sainsbury’s backtrack on its higher welfare commitments when other companies, like M&S, are committing to advance their chicken standards even further.
"We expect a leading UK retailer like Sainsbury’s who 'knows that animal health and welfare matters' to its customers to be at the forefront of the growing movement for higher welfare chicken.
"By not delivering on its welfare commitments – and in fact by completely withdrawing from them – Sainsbury’s is falling behind the curve and not only letting the chickens and its customers down but itself down too."
A Sainsbury's spokesperson said the supermarket is 'committed to high standards of animal welfare'.
They added: "It is what our customers expect from us, and it is why we are the UK’s biggest retailer of RSPCA Assured products and the world’s biggest retailer of MSC certified products.
"While we share Compassion in World Farming's commitment to improving animal welfare practices, we have been clear to them we believe a different approach is more effective.
"The way we work with our farmers is different, and has been for years. We’ve created a cycle of measuring, managing and continuously improving the health and welfare of our animals, and we believe the results speak for themselves."
CIWF is calling on its supporters to sign an open letter to Sainsbury’s. You canfind out more here