KFC has signed up to the Better Chicken Committee in six European countries. © Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
KFC has signed up to the Better Chicken Committee in six European countries. © Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

KFC 'making progress' on chicken welfare

16 January 2020

KFC has improved its chicken welfare standards while brands including Starbucks and McDonald’s have stagnated or got worse since 2019, according to a report.

The fried chicken fast food chain is the only company that has been ranked as “making progress”, up from “very poor” in 2019, largely due to it signing up to the Better Chicken Commitment, according to charity World Animal Protection (WAP).

WAP’s annual Pecking Order report analysed nine of the biggest global fast food chains’ treatment of chicken in supply chains and compared policies and actions towards improving the lives of birds. The organisations were assessed based on corporate commitments, targets, and performance reporting. 

In 2019 KFC signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment in six European countries, including the UK, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. 

KFC estimated this would improve the lives of 72m chickens by 2026 through better chicken breeds, more space and natural light, and enrichment materials such as perches and pecking materials. 

Starbucks and Subway ranked below KFC despite also having joined the Better Chicken Commitment in 2019. Starbucks and Subway remain at the same level as last year of “getting started”. 

Other brands including McDonald’s, Nandos, Burger King, Pizza Hut and the Dominos Pizza ranked as poor or very poor, according to the report. Burger King’s rating showed the largest decline, dropping by 30% compared to 2019. 

According to the report, moving to better welfare systems would increase costs by 6.4-13.4%, or six to nine eurocents per kg of bird. 

WAP said the welfare standards outlined in the Better Chicken Commitment, which include stricter auditing processes, reducing stocking density and “environmental enrichment”, must become the global standard.

Separately, the UK government has introduced the Agricultural Bill to replace the subsidy system of direct payments under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Public payments will be based on the amount of public benefits delivered rather than the quantity of land farmed. 

The legislation aims to boost farmer productivity while supporting net zero emissions by 2050 goals. Public benefits include better air and water quality, higher animal welfare standards, improved access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding. This aims to support investments in the “foundations of food production” and safeguard food security.

According to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the direct payment system will be “gradually phased out from 2021, and farms will be supported over a seven-year transition period, giving them time to adjust”. 

Peter Snodgrass, partner and agriculture specialist at the law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said: “This intent from Government goes hand-in-hand with high standards expected for animal welfare and the environment. When future trade deals are struck with non-EU countries, the UK must ensure that overseas producers meet the same stringent criteria as their domestic counterparts.”

Meanwhile online retailer Asos has announced it will start trialling reusable packaging for its delivery packages as part of a new plastics strategy. 

Asos pledged to eliminate all “unnecessary” or “problematic” plastic packaging items and make packaging 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable. The firm said issues with processing and collection infrastructure meant 100% of packaging was recyclable, but only in principle.

The UK government has created a new task force to tackle illegal waste crime, which costs the UK economy £600m a year.

The Joint Unit for Waste Crime will be the first time law enforcement, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency have been brought together, said DEFRA.

Also, Asda has launched its first ‘test and learn’ sustainability store in Leeds which is set to open in May. It aims to reduce plastic and encourage customers to reuse and refill. The public will be able to refill their own containers with Asda own-brand pasta, rice, coffee, as well as Kellogg’s cereals and Unilever’s PG Tips tea.

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