KFC has become the first fast food chain in the UK to commit to the new European welfare standards that aim to improve conditions in the large scale poultry-production industry. Paula MacKenzie, general manager of KFC UK & Ireland, said, “... we’re adding our voice to the campaign and encouraging others to do the same – because to inspire real change and provoke meaningful action, we need the industry to move with us.”
The new “European chicken commitment” is in line with the EU’s long withstanding commitment towards animal welfare. Across Europe, 28 organisations have signed the agreement that covers certain requirements for all fresh, frozen, and processed chicken in the supply chain, to be met by their suppliers by 2026 including:
- Comply with all EU animal welfare laws and regulations, regardless of the country of production.
- Reduce stocking density to give birds more space in barns
- Adopt breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes
- Meet improved environmental standards by investing in environmental “enrichment” which includes providing perches, pecking objects such as straw and vegetables, natural light, usable perch space, improved air quality, and no cages or multi-tier systems
- Adopt controlled atmosphere stunning or effective electrical stunning without live inversion.
- Demonstrate compliance with the above standards via third-party auditing and annual public reporting on progress towards this commitment.
Reports about the bleak conditions in poultry farms have increasingly been coming to light. Animal Equality’s UK director, Toni Vernelli, said of one such report that it showed “horrifying conditions” and that despite guidelines and industry audits, “the intensive nature of farming makes it inherently cruel ... unnatural conditions are standard on British chicken farms.” The European guidelines are a welcome transformative measure for these harrowing conditions.
KFC is the largest fast food chicken chain in the UK, and uses approximately 60 million chickens annually. Can their commitment to the new standards put pressure on other chains in the industry, including giants like McDonald’s and Burger King? Can a chain reaction bring about major change in the way chicken is produced in the UK? And could it go further, to change consumer perceptions about poultry production and consumption?