Marks & Spencer has committed to raising welfare standards for all the broilers it buys as part of a new poultry welfare campaign.
In a blog post by Steve McLean, head of agriculture and fisheries at M&S, he revealed he met representatives from the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming in December, who asked whether M&S would commit to a new campaign on poultry.
He wrote that even though “Oakham chickens have more living space than standard supermarket chickens (34kg/m2 compared to an industry average of 38kg/m2),” he believed it was his “responsibility to push the boundaries and test what can be achieved whilst at the same time delivering high quality, great value product for our customers.”
Under the campaign M&S has committed to even more space in barns (a move to 30kg/m2) and to farming a new, higher welfare breed of bird by 2026.
All other requirements (for example natural daylight, enriched environment, gas stunning and third-party auditing) are already met by Oakham standards. “But we will go further and work with all our suppliers, not just our Oakham chicken suppliers, to ensure they can meet the ‘ask’ by 2026. This will mean every piece of chicken sold by M&S, be it fresh or as an ingredient, will meet the new standards called for by welfare organisations. We’ll report on progress annually,” said McLean.
McLean said the changes must be sustainable and “that is why we will begin a series of trials later this month designed to test the new standards and how they work in a commercial farming supply chain. We need to get it right for our customers, our farmers and our chickens.
“Finding the right suppliers to support us on this journey is also vitally important, we need to make sure we’re working with the best and most committed.
“It will be a long, challenging road to 2026 and I expect a few bumps on the way. But I know that it is a journey worth making and I look forward to working with the welfare charities and our suppliers to deliver great quality chicken products for our customers, now and in the future.”