Chicken choice urged

Consumers urged to vote with their baskets to improve chicken production conditions

The RSPCA is calling on consumers to help reduce what it describes as the suffering of millions of chickens.

The animal protection charity conducted a study into the breeding of chickens for meat which it claimed shows evidence that birds reared to higher welfare standards are significantly healthier than those reared in over-crowded, barren and dimly lit conditions.

Following the launch of the report, which coincides with the beginning of Farm Animal Week, the RSPCA is calling on consumers to actively seek out higher welfare labelled products.

"Consumers hold the power to improve the lives of millions of chickens by voting with their shopping baskets and choosing higher welfare labelled chicken," said RSPCA senior scientific officer, Dr Marc Cooper. "If more consumers demand higher welfare chicken, such as Freedom Food, free-range or organic, more supermarkets will stock it and more farmers will raise their standards."

Chicken remains the UK's favourite meat, with about 860m chickens being reared for food each year.

The RSPCA claimed approximately 90% are reared to industry standards, which allocates each chicken with less space than a sheet of A4 paper - even less than is given to an egg-laying battery hen, it added.

Its own welfare standards are designed to ensure that chickens are given more space, brighter lighting during the day and longer periods of darkness at night, among others.

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