Sainsbury’s has become the first major supermarket to announce that it will axe intensively-farmed chickens across its entire range and adopt the RSPCA’s Freedom Food welfare standard for all broiler chickens.
The move has been hailed as “a major, ground-breaking step forward for animal welfare” by charity Compassion in World Farming. Sainsbury’s has already announced that it will phase out eggs from caged hens.
The supermarket chain’s chief executive Justin King slipped out the announcement on broiler chickens in a radio interview on the BBC’s Today Programme yesterday. “We are moving to the RSPCA welfare standard on all of our chickens” he said.
The RSPCA says it is unaware of the commitment, but says if King’s claim is correct, the chain must give a date by which it plans to achieve it.
The move will mean using chickens which grow more slowly, giving them more room in barns – with about 30kg of chickens per square metre rather than a maximum of 42 kg – and supplying them with straw bales and toys to “help them express natural behaviour”. They must also be allowed a “proper night time period” of six hours.
Some believe that Sainsbury’s had been planning the move for some time, but that King was bounced into making the announcement early after TV chef Jamie Oliver – who fronts Sainsbury’s advertising – criticised the chain for failing to take part in a televised debate on the welfare of chickens.