BPC defends UK chicken rearing standards, following BBC report

The British Poultry Council (BPC) has responded to a BBC article. Do people know where their chicken comes from?, which looks at intensive chicken farming in the UK.

The journalist visited Lower Farm, an indoor chicken farm in Chesterfield, similar to where 94% of British chicken comes from, and questioned whether consumers turned a blind eye to their rearing. The article also looked at labelling and the difference in rearing environments between ‘indoor’, ‘free-range’, ‘organic’ and ‘freedom foods’ labelled chickens.

Chicken farmer David Speller told the BBC journalist that indoor rearing was the only way to meet the country’s demand for chicken: “Can we produce a nutritious animal protein meal on your plate for £3.50 or £4 – a bird that will feed four people and probably do you a sandwich the next day? To do that and not have this level of control and sophistication is near impossible.”

This was echoed by the BPC in its response the article. The council argued welfare standards of intensely farmed chickens in the UK are higher than elsewhere: “The process of producing indoor-reared chicken has undergone many positive changes over the last few decades in response to consumer demand. However, this has not come at the expense of animal welfare. In fact, the UK has some of the best welfare standards in the world. Most UK poultry meat comes from birds reared under assurance schemes. These schemes go beyond the legislative requirements. Some 90% of chicken, turkeys and ducks, are reared to the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Poultry Scheme standards for chicken, turkey and duck. The Red Tractor is a voluntary food assurance, scheme which covers production standards developed by experts on safety, hygiene, animal welfare and the environment among other things.

“Indoor-reared chicken not only have access to feed, water, shelter from the elements and predators, but also protection from a wide range of infectious disease pathogens which can cause illness to the flocks and to humans. Health performance must be monitored, records kept of flock mortality and a range of health and welfare conditions and these must be reviewed with a veterinarian. High levels of biosecurity to maintain these standards mean access to poultry farms to the public must be limited. Poultry farms also require expert management and animal husbandry skills to both meet and maintain these standards.”

However, Speller told the BBC he believed indoor chicken farms were given a bad name and the public should be allowed access to the farms to witness their high welfare standards.

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