Marks & Spencer is set to become the first major retailer to sell 100 per cent slower-reared, higher welfare chicken across its entire fresh chicken range.
The grocer announced from autumn next year, all fresh chicken products stocked in its stores will be slower-reared, British and RSPCA Assured.
The birds are raised on a multigrain diet, which is designed to slow growth and muscle development, which gives the chicken a better flavour profile and improved succulence.
Customers are already able to buy slower-reared chicken at M&S, with products including whole chicken, portions and chicken breasts.
However, from next year, this standard will apply to all fresh chicken products the retailer sells.
“M&S has a long history of leading on animal welfare standards, working with our M&S Select farmers we know and trust,” M&S food managing director Stuart Machin said.
“We already have the biggest range of RSPCA Assured products on the market but we constantly want to raise the bar – that is why we are making this industry commitment.
“It will lead to a step-change in UK farming standards and show customers that our determination to maintain the highest welfare standards means they will always get exceptional quality and trusted value at M&S.”
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood added: “With its move to RSPCA Assured in this category, M&S has extended its already leading position and can assure its customers that they are buying higher welfare chicken, reared to the RSPCA’s high standards – throughout its entire range.
“It’s a landmark achievement for animal welfare, which we hope will set a leading example for others in the sector. By simply switching to using only slower growing breeds of chicken, retailers can make an enormous difference to the lives and welfare of millions of chickens reared in this country every year for their meat.”
“We applaud M&S for being the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the first to start transitioning supply, and the first to roll out product on shelf with their ‘Oakham Gold’ fresh chicken,” Compassion in World Farming director of food business Dr Tracey Jones concluded.
“Making commitments across the entire supply is a major step towards higher welfare chicken becoming a baseline standard, however concrete plans and contracts with suppliers are imperative to move the market forwards.
“M&S are leading the UK market and we urge others to follow suit if we are to succeed in achieving genuine change for chickens.”