NANDO’S product director Judith Irons has said the firm is “very proud” to have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment.

Ms Irons, who has a background in animal science, told Alltech’s One Ideas Conference that her career had begun at Tesco.

See also: 25% of UK poultry supply chain signed up to Better Chicken Commitment

“One of my first roles was a food technologist that became an agriculture technologist working on chicken, on poultry.

“And I spent a lot of time developing and co-creating chicken animal welfare codes of practice with our suppliers and really got underneath what makes the industry great, what makes the industry efficient, and what makes the product so good, and what drives the quality forward.”

Nando’s signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) shortly after Ms Irons’ appointment, which she said fitted with the firm’s ambition to provide “fantastically tasting food without any of the guilt attached”.

Welfare outcomes

The BCC calls for several changes to how chicken is reared, but Ms Irons said slower-growing breeds and lower stocking densities were the two measures that would improve welfare outcomes most.

Ms Irons said BCC chicken was “still grown at commercial scale, but it takes longer to achieve slaughter weight, which gives it a better chance to develop its immune system, its gastrointestinal tract, bone development”.

“So we’re very proud to have signed up to the commitment to change all of our product over to a slower-growing breed by 2026.”

Carbon zero

Nando’s has also signed a commitment to become carbon zero by 2030, and to do that, the ‘carbon impact’ of an average plate served by the restaurant would need to halve, she said.

“When you start to look into where our carbon is in our food and in our menu, the biggest area that will make a difference for us is chickens and feed, which is what contributes most to the emissions of chicken.”

“This is an open question for us.

‘Unintended consequences’

“How do we make sure that we don’t create unintended consequences by reducing the use of soy, or changing the use of soy, or changing the protein constituent of our chicken feed?

“We’re very committed to helping to be part of the change here as we decarbonize hard on our Scope 3 emissions through our supply chain, in line with our core purpose, to get us to carbon zero by 2030.”

“My ultimate dream would be, in terms of my impact in Nando’s,” concluded Ms Irons, “is that I would love to be able to walk into Nando’s and know that by being there and spending my money on this particular plate of food, I’m doing good things for my body, good things for the chickens, and good things for society and for the planet.”