US restaurant chain demands slow-grown chicken from suppliers

US fast food chain Chipotle has announced it will only buy slower grown breeds of chicken, a decision it said was based on animal welfare.

The business said this was consistent of only “sourcing high-quality whole ingredients that are raised responsibly and preparing them using classic cooking techniques.”

The restaurant chain, which uses 63.5 million kg chicken per year, said it had “identified the opportunity to further improve our chicken welfare standards by addressing a number of issues critical to the welfare of chickens raised for meat. The most critical issues are: welfare outcomes resulting from fast-growing chickens, environments in the facilities that house chickens, the space allotted to each animal, and the manner in which chickens are slaughtered.

“We will partner with our suppliers and the farmers in their networks to build the market for chicken raised in a way that addresses these issues. In addition, we will work with animal scientists and other animal welfare experts, including from organizations such as Compassion in World Farming and the Humane Society of the United States. Using standards aligned with the new requirements of the Global Animal Partnership’s standard for broiler chickens we will work to achieve the following goals:

“Improved breeding. Transition to strains of birds bred for measurably improved welfare outcomes.

“Providing more space. Provide animals with more space by reducing maximum stocking density to 6 lbs per square foot.

“Living conditions. Provide chickens with housing that includes improved lighting, litter and floor enrichments that allow chickens to express natural behaviours.

“Slaughter. Process chickens in a manner that utilises a multi-step controlled-atmosphere processing system.”

The business said its suppliers would be required to demonstrate compliance with these standards via audits by Chipotle’s internal animal welfare team as well as third party auditors. It said it was working to achieve these objectives by 2024, and would report on our progress on an annual basis.

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