Analysis into the Better Chicken Commitment shows that it could increase on-farm costs and greenhouse gas emissions, without delivering a demonstrable improvement in bird welfare.
The NFU commissioned two reports to see what this type of production would mean for producers – one to better understand the welfare claims behind the BCC and another to determine the potential economic and environmental impacts.
While the findings showed that the BCC’s additional welfare requirements would not significantly improve animal welfare, it found that it would increase cost of production by 18%, produce 23% more greenhouse gas emissions and use 22% more water.
The reports conclude that stockmanship is the single biggest factor in animal welfare.
The NFU is urging retailers and food businesses to consider the outcomes of the reports and ensure that any decisions on committing to the BCC, with the aim to improve the welfare of chickens, are evidence-based and led by shoppers, and that they have fully considered how it will be delivered given the increased cost of production.
NFU poultry board chairman Thomas Wornham said: “As poultry farmers our main priority is the health and welfare of our birds. The sector is always looking for ways to continue our good work in this area, but it is imperative that any new initiatives and decisions made by retailers and food service companies are based on sound science, led by the British people and deliver what they set out to do.
“When it comes to animal welfare, we need to focus on good stockmanship and continue to train individuals within the sector to ensure this remains at the heart of what we do.”
“The supply chain must also recognise that, with the increased production costs associated with the Better Chicken Commitment, producers will need long-term commitments from the supply chain to give them the confidence to invest. This will be even more important if the no-deal import tariffs come in to play and we could start seeing sub-standard chicken on supermarket shelves.”
The reports’ findings are based on a comparison between Red Tractor and the BCC standard.