From today, Marks & Spencer will only be selling 100% slower-reared fresh chicken in line with the Better Chicken Commitment in all its UK stores, becoming the first national retailer to do so.
In line with the Better Chicken Commitment, the retailer is now using Hubbard breed broilers, fed on a multigrain diet, and sold under the M&S Oakham Gold brand. M&S said the breed more resilient and robust than faster growing breeds, particularly to higher temperatures.
Birds will also have 20% more space compared to Red Tractor standard birds, plus more pecking aids and perches to encourage natural behaviours.
“At M&S we have a long history of driving animal welfare standards across the industry,” said Andrew Clappen, M&S food technical director. “This year marked 25 years since we first introduced 100% free range whole eggs and we were the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment. When it comes to chicken, we want to keep raising the bar to improve welfare – it’s something we know our customers care deeply about and we do too.”
Mike Baker, chief executive of RSPCA Assured, said: “M&S’s move to offer 100% slower-reared, RSPCA Assured fresh chicken is the biggest positive change to chicken farming in a generation. It’s a landmark achievement for animal welfare, which we hope will set a leading example for other retailers.”
Martin Sweetland, M&S Oakham Gold farmer, said: “I’m really enjoying farming the M&S Oakham Gold chickens – they are much more inquisitive than other breeds, have more room to dust bath, perch and play with pecking objectives. Seeing them exhibit natural behaviours makes me proud to farm these birds and I believe this translates into a more tasty eating bird – this is a real game changer and it makes me proud to be an Oakham Gold farmer.”