MARKS & SPENCER has become the first national retailer to switch entirely to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) for fresh poultry.
The supermarket has made the switch four years earlier than is generally asked for by groups campaigning for the change, with the RSPCA describing the move as “the biggest positive change to chicken farming in a generation”.
See also: Objectively evaluating bird welfare
The range is branded as Oakham Gold, with a slower-growing Hubbard breed stocked at a lower stocking density – the two key differences between BCC-raised birds and Red Tractor standards.
Products also carry the name of the farm or farmer who reared the birds.
A kilo tray of breast fillets at Marks & Spencer was priced at £10, when Poultry.Network paid a visit to one store.
The supermarket said it would ‘lock’ the cost of other lines as well, pricing chicken wings (750g -£1.30), chicken drumsticks (600g – £1.25) and chicken legs (600g – £1.20).
Martin Sweetland, a broiler farmer growing M&S Oakham Gold birds, said: “I’m really enjoying farming the M&S Oakham Gold chickens – they are much more inquisitive than other breeds, have more room to dust bath, perch and play with pecking objectives.
“Seeing them exhibit natural behaviours makes me proud to farm these birds and I believe this translates into a more tasty eating bird – this is a real game changer and it makes me proud to be an Oakham Gold farmer.”
Andrew Clappen, M&S Food technical director, added: “At M&S we have a long history of driving animal welfare standards across the industry.
“This year marked 25 years since we first introduced 100% free range whole eggs and we were the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment.
“When it comes to chicken, we want to keep raising the bar to improve welfare – it’s something we know our customers care deeply about and we do too.”