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KFC first UK fast food chain to commit to new chicken welfare standards

KFC first UK fast food chain to commit to new chicken welfare standards

Move expected to put pressure on rivals McDonald’s, Burger King and large supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

KFC is to become the first UK fast food chain to sign up to new European welfare standards for farmed chickens, in an attempt to tackle growing concerns about inhumane conditions in the intensive and large-scale production of meat.

The move by the America-owned chain – 18 months after the blueprint was unveiled – will put pressure on rivals McDonald’s and Burger King, as well as large supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s to follow suit.

Supermarkets, restaurant chains and hotel groups have all been urged to commit to the so-called European Chicken Commitment, which represents the first time a single set of requirements has been agreed on across the continent by a large coalition of European animal protection groups, including the RSPCA.

KFC’s UK and Ireland business said it will work closely with suppliers and NGOs to raise the minimum level of welfare standards across the industry by 2026. Its move will cover its sourcing of chicken in the UK and Europe, which make up the vast majority of its supplies, though it also buys a small amount of chicken from Thailand and Brazil.

The new requirements include stricter auditing processes, reducing stocking density to give birds more space in barns, and investing in environmental “enrichment” which includes providing perches, pecking objects such as straw and vegetables, and natural daylight.

In arguably the biggest step to help curb some of the cruellest aspects of the business which sees fast-grown, over-bred birds collapsing under their own weight, the new standard stipulates a pledge to purchase slower-growing breeds.

In the UK sales of red meat have fallen in recent years, but chicken – seen as a “healthy” meat – has seen sales rise.

KFC’s Imposter Burger – a vegan patty made from Quorn and intended to replicate chicken – sold out last month in the limited number of outlets stocking it.

Although KFC is the largest fast food chicken chain in the UK – using an estimated 60 million chickens every year in its 900-plus outlets – its UK and Ireland sales account for only 4% of total chicken sales in the UK, with the lion’s share through supermarkets.

Paula MacKenzie, general manager of KFC UK & Ireland, said: “Our customers care about improving the lives of the chicken we buy. That’s why we’re adding our voice to the campaign and encouraging others to do the same – because to inspire real change and provoke meaningful action, we need the industry to move with us.”

The Humane League has been lobbying for McDonald’s – which uses large volumes of chicken in its nuggets and burgers – to sign up to the commitment too. Its managing director Vicky Bond said: “We welcome KFC’s move, but it highlights just what a laggard McDonald’s is. This will benefit the lives of millions of chickens every year throughout their supply chain. We implore the rest of this sector and other food companies to follow in their footsteps.”

A McDonald’s spokesperson said it had its own scheme to improve the welfare and health of chickens in its supply chain, and had set up a council of experts to advise them on the matter.

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