New research published by RSPCA Assured reveals a difference in the way shoppers regard chickens that lay eggs and chickens farmed for their meat.
According to the survey 60% of people always buy cage free eggs, but as few as around half that number (33%) say they always buy higher welfare chicken meat such as RSPCA Assured, free range and organic.
This disparity is in spite of the majority (86%) of respondents saying they think all the chicken we eat should come from farms using higher welfare standards.
Consumer pressure has brought about a revolution in the UK egg industry with cage-free (barn, free range and organic) production accounting for 52% of eggs in 2016.
But it’s a different story for broilers. In fact RSPCA Assured chickens – from high welfare indoor, free range or organic farms – only account for about 1% of UK chicken production, with the vast majority being farmed intensively.
According to RSPCA scientist, Sophie Elwes, there could be a number of reasons for the difference.
“With eggs it’s easy – by law they have to state whether they come from hens in cages and many supermarkets have actually stopped selling eggs from cages altogether,” she said. “But meat chicken labels are a minefield.”
Price is also a significant factor. “The difference between the cost of eggs from caged birds and free range birds is usually a matter of pence but with meat chicken the difference can be quite a bit more,” said Elwes.