SAINSBURY’S has said it will lower broiler stocking density to 30kg/sq m for its own-brand chicken in a bid to improve bird welfare by March 2023.

The supermarket said it would work with supplier Moy Park to grow birds with 20% more space than the UK standard for all fresh chicken across its core ranges.

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It will also increase stimuli for birds in sheds, with more perching, bales and pecking objects to be made available.

The retailer described the move as a way of improving bird welfare while keeping prices affordable.

In making the changes, Sainsbury’s moves closer to the European Chicken Commitment (ECC) requirements for its own-label fresh poultry.

Most supermarket chicken sold in the UK meets most of the ECC’s requirements, but stocking densities are typically higher and conventional breeds are used.

In moving to a 30kg/sq m stocking density, the supermarket is meeting all but one of the conditions of the ECC – namely a slower-growing breed.

It is understood that the poultry sector in the UK is hoping to move to a 34kg/sq m stocking density with a medium-growth breed like the Hubbard Redbro as a compromise between the ECC and current production.

Sainsbury’s will also work with farmers to monitor animal behaviour as part of the programme, tracking the impact of the improved welfare practices, and reporting progress through its annual health and welfare report. 

Animal health and welfare

Rhian Bartlett, Sainsbury’s Food commercial director, said: “We care about animal health and welfare as much as our customers do, and we are committed to offering our customers quality and value while ensuring high welfare standards.

“As part of our commitment to helping everyone eat better, it’s important to us that we are helping our customers make healthy and sustainable choices, while maintaining great quality at affordable prices.

“That’s why in the next 12 months, all our by Sainsbury’s fresh chicken will be grown with over 20% more space than the industry standard, so when customers buy chicken from Sainsbury’s, they can be confident that they are making better choices, without compromising on value.”