NEW research has highlighted the cost of switching poultry production to the European Chicken Commitment (ECC, also known as the Better Chicken Commitment) to consumers and the environment. 

Companies across Europe, spanning from retailers to restaurants and catering businesses, have already signed up to the ECC, a framework of standards promoted by animal welfare NGOs, which aims to enhance animal welfare and exceeds current EU and UK legislation.

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The ECC commits its signatories to apply requirements including using slower-growing chicken breeds, a lower stocking density, and enrichments, to 100% of their (fresh, frozen, and processed) poultry supply chain by 2026.

In the UK, six out of 10 major retailers have committed to lowering stocking densities to 30kg/sq m in line with the ECC, but only two–Waitrose and M&S–have also committed to, or switched, to slower-growing broiler breeds to date

The Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in EU Countries (AVEC) has commissioned an impact study, conducted independently by RSK ADAS Ltd (ADAS), to examine the potential consequences of fully transitioning from current EU chicken meat production to ECC standards.

The ” Costs and Implications of the European Chicken Commitment in the EU” study finds that fully transitioning to ECC standards would result in:

  • An additional production cost of 37.5% per kilogram of meat
  • A 35.4% increase in water consumption, equating to an additional 12.44 million cubic meters annually
  • A 35.5% increase in feed consumption, amounting to an additional 7.3 million tonnes
  • A 24.4% rise in greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of meat produced
  • A reduction of 44% in the total meat produced compared to standard production methods at present in existing EU growing space (>30kg/m²)
  • And the necessity to construct 9,692 new poultry houses, with an estimated cost of €8.24 billion, to maintain current production levels

AVEC said these effects on production would inevitably lead to higher prices, which could exclude many consumers from buying chicken meat or “drastically increase imports from third countries with lower animal welfare standards”. 

The group’s president, Gert-Jan Oplaat, said: “While the ECC aims to improve animal welfare, it is crucial to recognise that these improvements come with significant economic and environmental implications. 

“Knowing that EU poultry consumption is predicted to grow in the EU in the next 10 years, consumers should have the choice to select higher-wefare products if they wish, but it’s crucial that standard, affordable options remain available.”

To download the full study, click here.