The new range, reared on farms inspected by Freedom Food to strict RSPCA welfare standards, hit Sainsbury's stores last week.
Sainsbury's has launched the new range to satisfy the rise in consumer demand for higher-welfare products. Its sales of higher-welfare chicken have risen 60% since January 2008, when TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched campaigns to raise public awareness of animal welfare.
In spite of the credit crunch, shoppers have not lost their desire to buy ethically sourced products and, according to YouGov research commissioned by Sainsbury's, nearly two out of five shoppers (38%) said they are actively looking for food that does not compromise on how it is sourced and is good for the environment.
Sainsbury's expects the demand for Freedom Food chicken to continue to grow as it has done in recent years. In 2006, higher-welfare chicken represented 14% of Sainsbury's total chicken sales; now, following the launch of the new Freedom Food-labelled chicken, nearly a third of all chicken sold at Sainsbury's will be higher-welfare - around 7.5m chickens a year.
Campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "Sainsbury's commitment to upgrade the minimum welfare standards of all its fresh chicken to the RSPCA welfare standards over the coming years will improve the lives of millions of British chickens, and this new initiative is clearly the first major step along that road. I welcome it wholeheartedly."
Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury's brand, said: "When we met Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last year, we said that Sainsbury's would do everything it could to improve chicken welfare, while providing our customers with choice and good value.
"We knew that higher-welfare chicken sales would go up following the Channel 4 food series in January. However, we are thrilled to see that customers have continued to buy chicken reared to higher standards.
"It demonstrates the strength of feeling for animal welfare issues and that, with greater availability of affordable options, our customers don't have to compromise."