Global milestone shows the way forward for companies in Aotearoa.

Two white chickens sitting down on some straw litter. They are facing each other.
Two white chickens sitting down on some straw litter. They are facing each other.
Image credit – RSPCA UK – RSPCA Assured

546 and counting. Global companies are changing the way they source their chicken meat, making significant improvements to the lives of billions of chickens. It is time for us to catch up.

With consumers demanding more humane practices in animal farming, more and more restaurants, supermarkets, retailers, and other food companies are waking up to the global movement to end the suffering of animals raised for food. 

Here in New Zealand, this began in 2015 when McDonald’s became the first retailer to announce that 100% of their eggs would be free-range within 18 months. Countdown became the first supermarket in 2017 to announce a cage-free policy for eggs and quickly all supermarkets and most other retailers, large and small, followed suit.

As a member of the Open Wing Alliance, we are proud to be working with over 80 other organisations to help chickens around the world. And as New Zealand has already made great strides when it comes to hens farmed for their eggs, we felt it was important that our work focuses on the 120 million chickens bred for meat each year.

When it comes to how we produce our chicken meat, New Zealand is falling behind. Hundreds of forward-thinking companies in countries spanning the United States, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Poland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Canada, and more, have committed to eliminating some of the cruellest practices from their supply chains, transforming how chickens are bred, farmed, and slaughtered. 

In 2021, Domino’s became the first, and so far only, company in New Zealand to commit to addressing the key welfare issues when it comes to chickens bred for meat. 

Update: As of August 2023, eight companies have signed the BCC in New Zealand including meal kits HelloFresh and My Food Bag and coffee chains Columbus Coffee and The Coffee Club.

How do welfare policies help chickens?

With roughly 120 million chickens farmed and slaughtered for their meat each year in Aotearoa, corporate welfare policies play an important role in reducing the amount of suffering that takes place on industrial chicken farms.

In focus is one white chicken sitting on dirty brown litter. Their beak is open. Patches of their skin are visible where there is no feathers. Her skin and feathers are dirty from the ground. Several more chickens are out of focus behind and next to them. Most are sitting but one is standing and their hear is visible in the side of the shot.
Image credit – Farmwatch

Based on the latest science, the Better Chicken Commitment is the leading set of animal welfare standards improving the lives of chickens farmed for meat. It lays out a set of carefully selected welfare criteria with six minimum standards that, together, significantly improve the lives of chickens. 

The Better Chicken Commitment asks companies to transition to slower-growing, healthier breeds, increase the space for each bird (also known as “stocking density”), give the animals more enriched environments (including lighting and perches), and shift away from the industry standard of live-shackle slaughter.

Food businesses are the go-between for customers and chicken producers. For too long, food businesses have been complicit in the suffering of millions of chickens farmed for their meat. They’ve sat by as:

  • Government studies found up to a third of chickens suffer terrible lameness;
  • Chicken industry figures revealed each year approximately two million chickens are so sick or lame that their necks are rung by workers, or they die slowly on the shed floor;
  • Consumer NZ awarded the chicken industry a ‘Bad Taste’ award for the misleading labelling of their products; 

By getting companies to commit to the much higher standards of the Better Chicken Commitment, we are drastically reducing the suffering of these birds. 

Which companies have chicken welfare policies?

All 546 company welfare policies for chickens bred for meat (called broilers by the industry) are outlined here on the global Chicken Watch.

Domino’s leads the way as the only company in NZ to have signed the Better Chicken Commitment.

Sadly, companies such as KFC, Pita Pit, HelloFresh, Subway and McCain have various commitments in Europe and North America, but have not included their New Zealand stores.

Update 23 November 2022
This article was originally published in May 2022. As of November 2022, HelloFresh has signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment after working with Animals Aotearoa. Making this commitment means they will be making the necessary changes to improve the welfare of chickens in their supply chains, most importantly using healthier chicken breeds who grow more naturally. 

What you can do

Animals Aotearoa is building momentum to put pressure on food businesses in 2022, but we can’t do it without you. 

Sign up to our A-team to join our team of incredible online activists who take quick actions once a week, demanding one company at a time does better for chickens!

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