Leading companies are making improvements that will benefit hundreds of millions of animals, every year.
Globally, more than 500 companies have already committed to standards that drastically improve life for chickens bred for meat. The Better Chicken Commitment is a set of world-leading standards, the minimum that ensure that chickens bred for meat are healthier and have better living conditions.
This global commitment has been adapted to our region to create the Australia-New Zealand Better Chicken Commitment, which is backed by 15 animal advocacy organisations including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals New Zealand (SPCA), World Animal Protection, Compassion in World Farming, Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa and The Humane League.
Here at Animals Aotearoa, we are working to create the same positive changes for animals in Aotearoa.
The Better Chicken Commitment is an opportunity for New Zealand food businesses to extend their corporate social responsibility to chickens bred for meat.
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Better Chicken Commitment – key requirements
Provide more space per chicken
Currently, in the majority of factory farms, chickens are crammed into barns, often thousands at a time. They have very limited space to move, and can suffer painful ammonia burns on their legs and bodies due to the waste on the floor.
In line with the Government’s recommended best practice, the Better Chicken Commitment requires chickens to be sourced from farms with a maximum stocking density of 30kg per square metre. When birds have more space, they are more active, which is better for their health.
Change to healthier, more naturally growing chicken breeds
Whilst chickens originate from wild birds, the modern breeds used for meat are a far cry from their wild ancestors. These chickens have been selectively bred over many years so they grow too big, too fast.
The Cobb and Ross breed chickens currently used in Aotearoa have been selected to maximise their ‘meat’ production. This comes at a serious cost to their welfare. The Government’s advisors have said this over-breeding is, “beyond a point that is compatible with survivability.”
To meet the BCC, companies must use certified higher welfare breeds that are slower-growing with fewer health issues.
Enrich the environment
For many chickens, their whole life is spent in a completely barren environment with dirty litter, constant artificial lighting and no stimulating activities. Aside from the physical effects this has on these animals, their mental well-being is also ignored.
To meet the conditions of the BCC, natural light and at least 50 lux of light (enough to read a newspaper in) is required. To allow the chickens to get adequate rest, it also requires at least six hours of darkness in each 24-hour period, with four hours being continuous.
In New Zealand, chickens are slaughtered by a process of two incredibly stressful practices. This first is live shackling, followed by waterbath stunning.
Each chicken is hung upside down by their feet in metal shackles. This is very painful considering the poor leg and hip health that many of these birds suffer from. An electrified water bath is then meant to give them a shock that renders them unconscious. However, many are not effectively stunned and continue to the next stage while conscious and still shackled. Their throats are then cut.
While there is no humane way to slaughter an animal, the BCC reduces distress and pain at slaughter by requiring the use of controlled atmospheric stunning without live-shackling. Controlled atmospheric stunning means that the chickens are exposed to inert gases or multi-phase carbon dioxide, that more effectively renders them unconscious before slaughter.
Keep their processes transparent
Ensuring companies follow through on their commitment is an important last step of the Better Chicken Commitment. Any company with a commitment must report annually on their progress towards reaching the Better Chicken Commitment and ensure that their supplier farms are audited to the BCC standards.
How does a company make a commitment?
If a company wants to transition toward the higher standards outlined above, they must make a public commitment with a deadline by which they will fully meet the Better Chicken Commitment for 100 per cent of their chicken supply.
Animals Aotearoa will publicise all New Zealand based Better Chicken Commitments and globally, all commitments can be viewed on Chicken Watch (select the issue ‘broiler’).
Working with the food industry to create change
Animals Aotearoa works with leading food companies to encourage them to commit to the higher welfare practices and sourcing policies of the Better Chicken Commitment throughout their supply chain.
We ask them to set clear deadlines for implementation of all the standards within the Better Chicken Commitment and be transparent on reporting annual progress towards their commitment. In this way, we are making a real difference for the welfare of chickens bred for meat.
Who has signed the Better Chicken Commitment in New Zealand and Australia?
In New Zealand, Domino’s, My Food Bag, HelloFresh, Swolefoods, The Coffee Club, Bird On A Wire, Mexico and Columbus Coffee have so far signed the BCC and in Australia, it has been signed by Domino’s, Marley Spoon, Open Farm and Joe & the Juice.
Are you a food business? Check out our information for businesses.
How does the Better Chicken Commitment compare to regulations in NZ?