Poultry sector chiefs have defended the high health and welfare standards on British farms after activist and TV presenter Chris Packham launched a petition calling on retailers to ’stop selling suffering’.
In the petition, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures, Mr Packham branded supermarkets as the ’biggest cause of hidden animal suffering’ in the country and urged them to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), a series of standards promoting higher welfare practises on broiler farms.
To date only Marks and Spencer and Waitrose and Partners have signed up to the BCC.
But NFU poultry board chairman Thomas Wornham said while the BCC rightly calls for the industry to continuously scrutinise and improve its standards, it fails to recognise the advancements made in poultry farming as well as reflect on the latest scientific evidence.
"Poultry meat farms in the UK implement far lower stocking densities than the EU requirements and the sector has also seen a 70 per cent decline in use of all antibiotics in the past seven years," Mr Wornham said.
"There have also been advancements in genetics meaning that birds now have the best health they’ve ever had, and this is why we encourage consumers and buyers to choose British.
“Our industry produces safe, traceable, sustainable and affordable chicken for shoppers at all price points, including options such as organic and free-range.
"Continuous improvement is a key aim of the sector and something it takes very seriously. But it is important that this is achieved through a scientific approach and considers customer demand.”
When approached by Farmers Guardian, Tesco and Sainsbury’s both highlighted their commitment to high standards of animal welfare, detailing the various schemes their products adhered to, such as RSPCA Assured and Red Tractor.
Tesco said its Finest, Organic and new RSPCA Assured Room to Roam ranges ’meet or exceed every aim of the Better Chicken Commitment’.