Why are NZ meal kits lagging so far behind in chicken welfare?

The contents of a meal kit spread over a blue table. There is a box of food and a paper recipe.

Update August
This article was originally published in June 2022. As of August 2023, eight companies in New Zealand have signed the BCC including meal kits HelloFresh and My Food Bag.

There is often a friendly rivalry between New Zealand and Australia, whether it’s “Who invented the pavlova?” or  “Who’s better at rugby?” But there is one area where New Zealand is lagging way behind – on the corporate welfare policies for chickens bred for meat.

Recently, Australian meal kit Marley Spoon shared their progress on achieving the Better Chicken Commitment by 2026 – they are 63% of the way there. Already they are sourcing chicken meat from suppliers that use much healthier breeds of chickens approved by the RSPCA UK. Leaving New Zealand and our meal kits lag way behind. 

We have a number of successful meal kit companies here. And they all use unnatural breeds of chickens that grow abnormally fast. Chickens have a lifespan similar to most dogs, but the chickens in New Zealand are killed at just six weeks. These breeds of chickens grow so big and so fast that some can’t even hold their bodies up and writhe around on the floor unable to reach food or water.

The biggest ones, including My Food Bag, HelloFresh and Woop, boast they use only free-range chicken in their meal boxes. Sadly, the reality for free-range chickens bred for meat falls far short of these baby birds having lives worth living. This is because abnormal fast-growing breeds are used throughout the NZ chicken industry, on both free-range and fully-indoor farms. These birds struggle to walk and many never get outside the sheds. 

These food businesses promote their ‘free-range’ chicken supplies because they know conscious consumers care about the treatment of animals. I know these customers don’t want to be financially supporting a food business that is causing animals to suffer and want to see them switch to healthier breeds of chickens, just like Marley Spoon has in Australia.

I’ve been working in the last few months to educate all the meal kits in New Zealand on the many ways the chickens in their supply chains are suffering. So far, not even one of these companies who claim to care about animal welfare has made the choice to support the much higher welfare standards of the Better Chicken Commitment.

A table showing Marley Spoon’s progress toward the Better Chicken Commitment. In Australia, they have not yet achieved the minimum stocking density of 30kg/m2 or the enrichment and lighting requirements. But they are 100% of the way there for the air quality, breeds, processing methods and auditing requirements. This leaves them with a regional average of 63% progressed for Australia. In the UK, they are at 67% and in the US 66%.
Marley Spoon’s BCC accountability results

Marley Spoon is one of 42 meal kit companies, globally, who are taking animal welfare seriously by signing up to the Better Chicken Commitment. This includes HelloFresh in the US and Europe. Meanwhile, New Zealand meal kits are choosing to continue to profit from cruelty.  

This is one area where NZ is not just losing the race, we haven’t even reached the starting line.

Come on New Zealand!!!

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