New chicken standards raise the bar for New Zealand food businesses

Several white chickens in a shed. Two are sitting on a straw bale.
a close-up of a hand holding a packet of chicken breast in a fridge aisle.

New Zealanders can look forward to higher welfare standards for chickens with today’s launch of the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment. 

This commitment has been developed by the New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Animals Aotearoa and The Humane League, and is also supported by nine global animal welfare organisations including Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection and Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa.

Chickens are naturally curious, they like to peck at things and explore their surroundings. Stuck on a factory farm and bred to grow abnormally fast, they are trapped in an environment that fails to meet their needs and trapped in an unnatural body. 

The Better Chicken Commitment is a set of welfare standards that bans the use of abnormally fast-growing breeds that are killed at just six weeks old, in favour of healthier breeds that grow more naturally. This also means that chickens are provided with more space, natural light, enrichments, and less suffering at slaughter. 

Two white chickens. One is sitting on a wooden perch.
A BCC-accredited farm (Image credit – RSPCA UK: RSPCA Assured)

What is the Better Chicken Commitment?

The Better Chicken Commitment was originally a set of welfare standards developed by animal organisations in America. But now it’s taking off around the world.

There is a European Better Chicken Commitment and now the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment. These commitments vary slightly depending on region, but share the same basic requirements:

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, a shift to healthier more natural breeds of chickens.
  2. A much lower stocking density which gives chickens more space inside the sheds.
  3. Improvements to chickens’ environment, including natural light, perches to rest on and objects to play with.
  4. Less handling and stress at slaughter.
  5. Public accountability and transparency through reporting.

What will the Better Chicken Commitment mean for chickens?

The impact of the Better Chicken Commitment improvements cannot be underestimated. While we support any and all moves to give chickens better lives, these standards will lead to critical improvements in the chicken industry. 

A chicken raised to these standards will have more space to move around. They will have been bred with the health of the bird in mind (instead of profit). They will be able to get off the dirty litter and rest on perches. These inquisitive birds will have objects to play with and things to investigate. They will be able to see the daylight (instead of the 20 hours of artificial light they currently have each day on farms) and experience longer periods of darkness so they can get sufficient sleep.

Several white chickens in a shed. Two are sitting on a straw bale.
A BCC-accredited farm (Image credit – RSPCA UK: RSPCA Assured)

Who supports the Better Chicken Commitment?

In New Zealand, we’ve been working with the SPCA to bring about support for the Better Chicken Commitment.

Together with ten other global animal welfare organisations, we’re launching this regional commitment.

  • Anima International
  • Animal Equality
  • Animals Aotearoa
  • Animals Australia
  • Compassion in World Farming
  • Eurogroup for Animals
  • Mercy For Animals
  • Sinergia Animal
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals New Zealand
  • The Humane League
  • Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa
  • World Animal Protection

How will Animals Aotearoa make sure that chicken farms start following the Better Chicken Commitment standards?

There are many chicken farms across the country, most of which are controlled by large corporate interests. It’s a big industry currently profiting from pain and suffering! 

That’s why we are launching a campaign calling on major food brands to only source their meat from farms that raise healthier breeds of chickens and treat them better.

Share this article now to get the word out on the changes needed for chickens.

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