Defra commits to lower than EU chicken density

Animal welfare leaders have welcomed a decision by Defra that broiler chickens must be stocked at no more than 39kg per square metre - but they will continue to push for lower levels.

Defra has confirmed that the maximum density, which is under the maximum limit of 42kg a square metre set by the 2007 EU Directive on the welfare of meat chickens.

The confirmation of the lower density has been welcomed as a courageous decision by Compassion in World Farming.

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming said, "Defra has made a positive decision for farm animal welfare. We believe this is a step in the right direction for broiler chickens.

"However, even though Defra has opted for the lower of the two densities under consideration, we believe that the permitted density is far too high as it allows chickens to be kept in conditions too crowded to meet their basic welfare needs.

"We would eventually like to see all chickens farmed in higher welfare conditions Ė either free range or, to RSPCA Freedom Food standards where the maximum permitted stocking density is 30 kilogrammes per square metre.

"Now itís down to the industry and consumers to further drive that change. Consumers looking for higher welfare chicken have grown sales by 22% in the last year whereas sales of standard chicken have remained at only 0.1% year on year."

>> RSPCA launches animal welfare business awards

>> Chicken stocking density set in Wales

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