Sainsbury’s backtracks on chicken welfare

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I’m extremely disappointed to announce that Sainsbury’s has failed to deliver on their commitment to sell 100% higher welfare, fresh own-label chicken.

In 2010, Compassion gave Sainsbury’s the prestigious Good Chicken Award for making a public commitment to provide their chickens with more space, natural light and enrichment and to introduce a slower growing, healthier breed of chicken. Sadly, they have gone back on their word and have now withdrawn from these commitments.

Their broken promise means millions of chickens will continue to suffer every year in overcrowded sheds, growing so big and so fast they struggle to walk.

At a time when there is increasing public interest in animal welfare and better food, I’m deeply frustrated that a leading UK retailer like Sainsbury’s has backtracked on chicken welfare – and I’m sure their customers will be bitterly disappointed too.

Compassion has withdrawn the retailer’s Good Chicken Award and we are calling on our supporters to sign an open letter to Sainsbury’s to tell them what they think of their broken promise.

Chicken welfare still on the radar

Despite this disappointing news, chickens are still very much on the corporate agenda. To date, over 80 companies in the US have now made 2024 commitments to improve chicken welfare by tackling the fundamental problems of fast growing breeds, and the basic need to provide enough space and an enriched environment for the chickens to live and carry out normal behaviours.

And I recently posted that M&S has joined Unilever and contract caterer Elior Group in signing up to the new European criteria for chickens – similar to those in the US – promising to achieve their aims by 2026.

For M&S that means higher welfare chicken across their entire fresh and ingredient chicken supply, for Unilever that means that means higher welfare chicken ingredients in all its bouillons and soups, and finally, Elior Group who have gone a step further and made their commitment to using higher welfare chicken GLOBALLY.

These examples put into perspective Sainsbury’s failure to achieve higher welfare across just its UK fresh chicken supply. Surely this is something within the realms of possibility for a company of Sainsbury’s stature, and from one that claims that treating animals well is ‘the right thing to do’.

Making business future-proof

Like any other business decision, commitments on animal welfare should be made for the long term. Companies need to invest in production systems that are fit for purpose to ensure that the animals experience a good quality of life, and fit for the future too by meeting the growing demand for more ethical and sustainable food.

Higher welfare systems may cost more but savings can be made, not to mention the health benefits for chickens and humans alike. For example, fewer antibiotics are needed and the meat quality is better from chickens reared on higher welfare farms.

In addition, we should all be eating less meat, waste less and ensure what we do eat has higher welfare origins if we are to truly value the lives of the animals reared to feed us and to support sustainable food production.

By not delivering on their welfare commitments – and in fact by completely withdrawing from them – Sainsbury’s are falling behind the curve and not only letting the chickens and their customers down but themselves too.

Please, add your name to the open letter to Sainsbury’s here and tell them what you think of their broken promise.

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