The Better Chicken Commitment is a set of evidence-based standards that aims to improve the lives of chickens farmed for meat.
SPCA recently joined fourteen local and international animal NGOs - including Animals Aotearoa, Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Aotearoa, the Australian Alliance for Animals, Compassion in World Farming, the Humane League and World Animal Protection - in calling for food businesses to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment.
My Food Bag has agreed to implement the Commitment after discussions with Animals Aotearoa. Joining the Commitment will see My Food Bag transitioning by 2026 to a supply chain that makes several improvements, including:
- a shift to healthier chicken breeds who grow more naturally
- the installation of windows so that the birds have natural light in the shed
- giving chickens more space (i.e. reducing the number of chickens kept in each shed); and
- providing perches for chickens to rest on and providing enrichment materials
“My Food Bag’s commitment to transition to the Australia-New Zealand BCC by 2026 will see the New Zealand owned and operated company improve and evolve its animal welfare initiatives and its commitment to consciously source high-quality proteins, without compromising on animal welfare.” - My Food Bag
The Better Chicken Commitment has been hugely successful in the European Union and the United States, with over 500 food businesses signing up to protect chicken welfare in their supply chains - including supermarkets, fast food chains and meal kit companies.
The initiative is an opportunity for New Zealand food businesses to demonstrate their commitment to higher animal welfare standards.
Increased demand for ethical choices
New Zealanders are increasingly calling for their food to be produced sustainably and ethically, and there is a growing international movement of companies pledging to improve the welfare of chickens farmed for meat.
SPCA believes that commitments like these are required because conventional chicken breeds – including those in free-range systems - are bred to grow too quickly, typically reaching slaughter weight at around five weeks.
SPCA’s scientific officer for farmed animals, Marie McAninch, says the quality of life for the meat chicken breeds in New Zealand deteriorates quickly because of the speed of their growth.
“Meat chickens often suffer from painful conditions such as lameness and cardiovascular problems,” says McAninch. “Their painful health conditions are usually a direct result of their breed and growth speed, so SPCA strongly advocates for the introduction of slower-growing, healthier breeds of chicken into New Zealand.”
The conditions in which many meat chickens live can also be improved. It is important that chickens are provided with appropriate lighting, enough space, and effective and suitable enrichment material that allows for a range of species-specific behaviours such as scratching, foraging, pecking and dust-bathing.
The Better Chicken Commitment is a way for companies to better protect the welfare of chickens.
In November 2021, Domino’s New Zealand demonstrated their animal welfare leadership by being one of the first in Australia and New Zealand to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment and agree to implement its standards by 2026 - joining over 500 food business worldwide. The ready-meal company SwoleFoods followed earlier this year.
SPCA congratulates businesses who follow suit in the region, and will support New Zealand food businesses to sign up. If food businesses have questions about the Better Chicken Commitment, our team can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image supplied by RSPCA Assured