The ECC contains six key measures to help address major issues encountered in standard chicken production by 2026. This included prohibiting the use of fast-growing breeds, reducing overcrowding, and adding environmental enrichment to provide better conditions for chickens (see box below for full list).
Annelie Selander, sustainability manager at Nomad Foods, which has brands including Birds Eye, Findus and Iglo, reiterated the firm’s commitment to the development of safe, responsible and sustainable food chains, with consideration to animal welfare.
‘Animal welfare agenda needs to evolve’
“We believe the animal welfare agenda needs to evolve, which is why we have been consulting with our stakeholders, including suppliers and consumers, to develop a plan to improve the welfare of the chickens we use in our products,” said Selander.
“Signing up to the European Chicken Commitment is the natural conclusion of that work and we will collaborate with our global suppliers to understand how we can best drive the change needed by 2026.”
Nomad’s pledge followed a Europe-wide campaign by The Humane League and a coalition of firms under animal welfare organisation The Open Wing Alliance.
Pru Elliott, The Humane League UK’s head of campaigns, said: “We applaud Nomad Foods for doing the right thing for chickens and their customers. It is very encouraging to see them lead the way in their sector, and we encourage other manufacturers to follow suit.”
Food industry commitment
Nomad is one of a number of food and drink businesses that have committed to the ECC, with one of the most notable being fried chicken fast food chain KFC. The company pledged to meet criteria in several European countries by 2026.
Mahi Klosterhalfen, president and chief executive of Albert Schweitzer Foundation, one of the members of the Open Wing Alliance, said: “Nomad Foods is taking a step in the right direction. In Germany, Iglo is following the lead of competitors Frosta and Dr Oetker and we now expect other companies to sign up to meet the new welfare standards soon.”
Meanwhile, Arla and Morrisons have been working together on a project to improve the welfare and conditions of dairy cows.
The European Chicken Commitment
1: Comply with all EU animal welfare laws and regulations, regardless of the country of production.
2: Implement a maximum stocking density of 30kg/m2 or less. Thinning is discouraged and, if practised, must be limited to one thin per flock.
3: Adopt breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes: either the following breeds, Hubbard JA757, 787, 957, or 987, Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic, and Ranger Gold, or others that meet the criteria of the RSPCA Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment Protocol.
4: Meet improved environmental standards, including:
- At least 50 lux of light, including natural light;
- At least two metres of usable perch space, and two pecking substrates, per 1,000 birds;
- On air quality, the maximum requirements of Annex 2.3 of the EU broiler directive, regardless of stocking density;
- No cages or multi-tier systems.
5: Adopt controlled atmospheric stunning using inert gas or multi-phase systems, or effective electrical stunning without live inversion.
6: Demonstrate compliance with the above standards via third-party auditing and annual public reporting on progress towards this commitment.