Media Release: Ruffling feathers – Cafés ranked on their chicken welfare

Biggest café name in New Zealand signs on to improve chicken welfare. 

Columbus Coffee tops the just-released report, ranking popular café chains’ animal welfare policy. The report reveals which brands are lifting their supply chain standards for chickens farmed for meat, and, importantly, which are not. 

The country’s largest dedicated coffee chain, Columbus Coffee, is the latest brand to commit to raising the standard in chicken welfare, signing the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment for its 75 café locations. Columbus is joined by eight Mexico restaurants, also owned by parent company Café Brands. 

Led in New Zealand by advocacy charity Animals Aotearoa, the global policy initiative the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) lays out strict, science-based welfare standards for chickens bred for meat; standards which far exceed those currently set by the New Zealand Government.

“Our franchisees within the Columbus Coffee and Mexico Restaurant brands have established strong connections within their local communities and share an appreciation for the importance of ethical business practices. Embracing the Better Chicken Commitment initiative both at a local and national level, was something we all felt we needed to do,” says Jon Hassall, Chief Operating Officer, Café Brands.

“By integrating these standards into our operations and throughout our franchise network, we are not only addressing the evolving expectations from our customers, but also taking steps towards a more humane and sustainable food production industry, which we as consumers all benefit from,” adds Jon Hassall. 

Columbus Coffee’s policy announcement coincides with the release of a new café industry ranking report “The Unfiltered Truth”, rating ten well-known nationwide coffee outlets on their corporate responsibility in animal welfare.

The report ranks Aotearoa’s two largest dedicated coffee chains, Columbus Coffee and The Coffee Club, as “BCC-Leaders – Signed the BCC”, making them industry frontrunners with the highest chicken welfare standards. Other big brands like Robert Harris and Coffee Culture have been rated positively, categorised as “BCC- Friendly – Not yet signed the BCC but engaging in active discussion”. Brands trailing behind with the worst chicken welfare policy include Hollywood Espresso Bakery and Starbucks. 

Overseas, Starbucks has signed the BCC in The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, but not yet in New Zealand. The report highlights Starbucks’ failure to commit here as a double standard. Starbucks and others’ inaction is an endorsement of poor welfare chicken farming practices. In order to keep pace with global improved welfare trends, the chicken industry, dominated by Tegel and Ingham’s, needs a push from their customers – the food businesses – to improve the genetics of their birds. 

“In this chicken and egg situation, it’s demonstrated demand for healthier, more naturally growing breeds that comes first,” says Animals Aotearoa Executive Director, Marianne Macdonald. “Brands like Starbucks need to stop dragging the chain and act in line with what Kiwis want. A recent Horizon poll found 90% of people think it is important to protect the welfare of farmed animals in New Zealand, yet currently, Starbucks seem happy to sell cruelty with its coffee.”

New Zealand farming practices are lagging behind foreign markets where the Better Chicken Commitment standards are already established. The latest animal welfare science backs up what is already established – the use of healthier chicken breeds that grow more naturally, means chickens have better lives. As well as requiring healthier breeds as the key improvement, the BCC provides birds with environmental enrichments including more space, natural light and perches to rest on. 

The Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment is backed by 15 animal organisations including the New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa (VAWA), Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection.

Parent company Café Brands LTD has 75 Columbus Coffee outlets spread throughout the country, as well as QSR brand Mexico, with 8 outlets. By 2026, Columbus Coffee and Mexico will meet the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment standards for 100 per cent of the chicken meat they use.

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