RSPCA has banned ’thinning’, a move the charity claims will not only improve the welfare of millions of chickens under its RSPCA Assured label, but will also make the meat safer to eat.
Thinning is where a portion of chickens are removed from the shed for slaughter earlier than the rest, a procedure linked to an increase in campylobacter poisoning, according to a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
From January 1, 2016, farms rearing to RSPCA standards will be banned from thinning their flocks.
Dr Marc Cooper, chicken welfare specialist at the RSPCA said the ban on thinning will be a ’major step forward for the welfare of chickens’.
He said:“The RSPCA is leading the way on farm animal welfare by setting these pioneering standards for indoor reared chickens and we hope other farm assurance schemes will follow suit.
“Sadly, welfare is often compromised to produce chicken as cheaply as possible. Consumers concerned about farm animal welfare who want to make a difference should look for the RSPCA Assured label."
Campylobacter is reported to be the dominant cause of food poisoning in the UK and is estimated to be responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning every year.
Dr Cooper continued: "“I hope producers who are not currently rearing to RSPCA welfare standards will follow suit and ban thinning but without implementing other compensatory management practices, such as increasing stocking densities, that could have a negative impact on welfare"