How the Better Chicken Commitment compares to standards in NZ

A bright yellow background with the neck and shoulders of a white chicken in the foreground.

The Better Chicken Commitment is the leading set of science-based standards for chicken welfare. It was originally developed by 30 animal welfare organisations as a set of standards to address the biggest causes of suffering on chicken farms where chickens are reared for meat. 

The Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment (ANZ BCC) has been developed by Animals Aotearoa, SPCA NZ, Compassion in World Farming and The Humane League to meet the needs of our local context. It is supported by 15 animal organisations including Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa and World Animal Protection. 

We are often asked how the ANZ BCC compares with the current minimum standards for chickens, which were written by the National Animal Welfare Committee (NAWAC) and found in the Code of Welfare (Meat Chickens) and the Code of Welfare (Commercial Slaughter)

The Codes outline minimum standards that are considered the minimum necessary to meet the Animal Welfare Act. They also outline some Recommended Best Practices. Many of these best practices are in line with the ANZ BCC, as you can see in the table below. Over time, in most areas of animal welfare, the recommended best practices get lifted to minimum standards when codes are reviewed. 

The Code of Welfare for chickens bred for meat was initially drafted in 2012 and republished in 2018 (without a review). The Government has said a full review will be starting in 2023. 

We are also often asked how the ANZ BCC compares to the New Zealand free-range standards. It is important to note that there is no legal definition of free-range in New Zealand so we have also compared the ANZ BCC standards to the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand’s free-range standards for meat chickens.

The ANZ BCC is an improvement upon both the current minimum standards and the industry free-range standards for chickens bred for meat. However, many of the ANZ BCC standards match NAWAC’s recommended best practices. The main difference of the ANZ BCC is a restriction on the abnormally fast-growing breeds used, in favour of healthier breeds who grow more naturally.

This comparison table is best viewed on a desktop or tablet.

Stocking Density

Implement a maximum stocking density of 30kg/m2 or less. 

Thinning* is discouraged and if practised must be limited to one thin per flock.
Minimum standard 10
(b) stocking density in sheds must not exceed 38kg of live weight per square metre of floor space.

Recommended best practice
a) Meat chickens should be stocked in sheds at less than 30 kg per square metre at all times.
No mention of thinning*.
“The indoor stocking density of a shed must not exceed 34kg of weight per square metre of floor space.”

No mention of thinning*. 
*Thinning is a process where a proportion of the chickens are removed from the shed and taken for slaughter, days or weeks before all the remaining birds are removed for slaughter. It is a highly stressful process for the birds removed and those left behind.


Adopt breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes: either the following breeds, Hubbard Redbro (indoor use only); Hubbard Norfolk Black, JA757, JACY57, 787, 957, or 987, Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic, and Ranger Gold, or other breeds that meet the criteria of the RSPCA (England & Wales) Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment Protocol or equivalent protocol validated by the Better Chicken Commitment committee.No requirement for breed.

It is worth noting that the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee issued this statement in relation to chicken breeds in 2017.

“NAWAC has concerns that the meat chicken has been selectively bred beyond a point that is compatible with survivability…NAWAC is concerned that the rapid growth of these animals has a negative effect on the birds that are kept in adulthood – for example affecting their fertility, mortality, locomotion, and aggressiveness.”
No mention of breed.


At least 50 lux of light, including natural light. 

At least six hours of darkness in each 24-hour period, with four hours of that darkness being continuous.
Minimum Standard 6
(b) Lighting patterns must encourage activity and provide a minimum period of darkness each day to ensure adequate rest in chickens, such that:
i) if only four hours of darkness is provided it must be continuous;
ii) if more than four hours of darkness is provided, each dark period must be a minimum of three continuous hours.

Recommended Best practice:
Light intensity at chicken head height should be at least 50 lux.
“Lighting patterns must encourage activity and provide a minimum period of darkness each day to ensure adequate rest in chickens.”

Minimum period is not stated. 


At least two metres of usable perch space, and two pecking substrates, per 1,000 birds.No minimum standard.

Recommended Best Practice:
Chickens should be provided with environmental enrichment to maximise the expression of normal behaviours. Such practices may include:
i) provision of bales of hay or straw
ii) perches/barriers
iii) pecking objects
iv) provision of peat moss or sand to promote dustbathing and other activity
v) provision of trees, shrubs, or covered shelters outdoors to encourage chickens with access to the outdoors to move away from the popholes and house perimeter.
No mention of perches or pecking substrate.

Air Quality

On air quality: the concentration of ammonia does not exceed 20 ppm and the concentration of carbon dioxide does not exceed 3000 ppm at the level of the chickens’ heads, regardless of stocking density.Minimum Standard 7
(b) Immediate and appropriate action must be taken to reduce ammonia levels if they exceed 20 ppm at chicken head height.

No standards for carbon dioxide
No specific standards for ammonia or carbon dioxide. But will be meeting standards in the Code of Welfare.  


No cages or multi-tier systems.Not currently in use. This clause is to prevent these systems from being developed and used in future. 


Adopt controlled atmosphere stunning using inert gas or multi-phase systems, or effective electrical stunning without live inversion.The code of welfare for slaughter allows for both water-bath stunning (explicitly banned under BCC) and Controlled Atmospheric Stunning (allowed under BCC). 

In practice, only water-bath stunning is used in New Zealand.
No mention of slaughter.


Demonstrate compliance with the above standards via third-party auditing and annual public reporting on progress towards this commitment.No requirement for auditing.**Farms should regularly maintain and be audited to meet the core standards.**
**While auditing is not a requirement, all chicken farmers will be having regular audits to ensure their biosecurity standards and their animal welfare standards, if free-range. The BCC standards can be a “bolt-on” to existing audit standards.
Two images. On the left is a brown and white feathered chicken standing up and a label ‘BCC Approved breed’ on the right is a white feathered chicken sitting down with their leg tucked under their body in an unnatural position and the labl ‘Non-BCC approved breed.’