Boycott cheap chicken, says RSPCA

The RSPCA is calling on retailers to stop selling cheap chicken in a new campaign highlighting what it calls "unacceptable conditions" in many of Britain's poultry farms.

Public attention is expected to focus on chickens this month when celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall present programmes examining the conditions in which broilers are reared.

Full page adverts by the RSPCA in several national newspapers today take the form of an open letter to the supermarkets, challenging them to sell only higher welfare chicken and ditch standard chicken.

Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA farm animal scientist, said: "If people knew how the average chicken was treated before it ended up as their Sunday roast, they would probably be disgusted. Currently, some supermarkets are selling chicken meat for as little as £2 per kilo - this can be less than it costs to produce the bird. Selling chicken so cheaply doesn't provide farmers with enough money to enable or encourage them to rear their birds to standards the RSPCA finds acceptable.

"Everyone has a responsibility to ensure chickens are reared to high standards - the retailer, shopper and farmer. We are asking supermarkets to stop selling standard chicken and shoppers to stop buying it. Chicken labelled Freedom Food, free-range or organic is a better welfare alternative. We are asking shoppers to demonstrate to supermarkets that there is a demand for higher welfare chicken by signing our petition and by showing they are willing to pay a little bit more money for a bird that's had a better life."

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