Better Chicken Commitment

Working with the food industry to create positive change for chicken welfare

For many years, Compassion in World Farming has been working hard to raise baseline welfare standards for all chickens reared for meat. Poor welfare should not be an option – for the chickens, for the health of our planet and for the quality of human diets!

The Better Chicken Commitment is fundamental to this.

Why we need to raise the bar

Chickens raised for meat are the most farmed land animal in the world. In the UK alone, more than one billion chickens are reared each year. The vast majority are raised in barren, cramped sheds - often with no natural light and nothing for them to do. These birds can feel emotions just like us - such as pain, fear and boredom - so regularly suffer in these harsh conditions.

6 billion chickens reared for meat in the EU each year. 90% are unhealthy, fast-growing birds in crowded sheds.

Most chickens are bred to grow so big so fast (4x faster than 50 years ago) they are unable to behave like chickens, who naturally like to perch, peck, forage and play. These birds often struggle to walk and spend most of their time sitting doing nothing or become lame. They suffer a range of other health problems including heart defects, organ failure, muscle disease, foot lesions and compromised immune systems.

Fast-growing chickens are trapped in unhealthy, oversized bodies. Many suffer serious health problems.

What is the Better Chicken Commitment?

In 2017, Compassion in World Farming joined forces with a group of European NGOs asking the food industry to commit to new welfare standards for all chickens raised for meat.

The Better Chicken Commitment (also known as the European Chicken Commitment) is a pledge committing those who have signed up to introduce higher welfare standards for ALL chickens in their supply chain, by 2026.

We want to raise the baseline for all chicken production. This will mean that consumers can trust that the chicken they are buying or being served hasn’t come from a poor welfare system. Chickens are sentient beings, not commodities, and deserve a good quality of life. 

We want chickens to be able to behave like chickens. To perch, peck, scratch and play.

The Better Chicken Commitment requires the following:

  1. Use of slower-growing, healthier breeds of chicken
  2. More space to live
  3. Natural light, perches and pecking objects such as grain and straw
  4. More humane slaughter practices
  5. Compliance with third-party animal welfare auditing and annual reporting

Why are these five requirements so important?

Use of slower-growing, healthier breeds

Use of slower-growing, healthier breeds

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Most chickens are bred to grow so big so fast that they may struggle to walk, have difficulty breathing and often become lame. Many develop serious heart conditions making them even more inactive. Their oversized bodies cause their muscles to degenerate, which is very painful for the chickens.

The use of fast-growing breeds also has had an adverse effect on the meat produced, which is sometimes affected by ‘white striping’ where fatty deposits are stored in the breast muscle, or ‘wooden breast’ - a hardening of the muscle tissue when cells die due to lack of oxygen. 

The Solution

REMA Chicken

The Better Chicken Commitment requires the use of slower-growing breeds as this can radically improve the birds’ health and quality of life. They can walk more easily, have stronger hearts and better resistance to disease – reducing the need for antibiotics. 

More space to live

More space to live

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In poor welfare systems chickens live their whole lives cramped and confined in barren, overcrowded sheds. They grow so fast their living space is quickly diminished and they are constantly jostling for space, which can cause distress. Chickens dislike being crammed together and will compress their feathers to avoid being touched.

In intensive farming systems chickens don’t have the space they need to exhibit any natural behaviours such as pecking, wing flapping or even walking. These overcrowded conditions also encourage disease and bacteria to spread.

The Solution

Windstreek broiler barn system.jpg

A chicken’s life is made better when they are given more space to walk around, play and investigate their environment. They can also seek out quiet areas to rest. That is why the Better Chicken Commitment stipulates a maximum chicken stocking density of 30kg/m2 rather than the 39kg/m2 stocking density that is accepted in lower welfare systems.

Natural light, perches and pecking opportunities

Natural light, perches and pecking opportunities

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Chickens would naturally spend their day foraging for food, scratching the ground looking for insects and seeds, maintaining their plumage condition via dustbathing and preening as well as perching in trees to avoid predators. These natural instincts remain in the broiler chickens used for meat today.

A lack of stimulation, natural light and the ability to perch has a negative effect on their wellbeing, leaving them frustrated, inactive and bored.

The Solution

9 Higher Welfare Indoor

The Better Chicken Commitment requires at least 50 lux of light, including natural light, and at least two metres of usable perch space and two pecking objects such as grain or straw per 1,000 birds. This improves their quality of life and enriches how they spend their days.

More humane slaughter

More humane slaughter

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Electrical water bath stunning is the common method for the slaughter of poultry across the globe. There are, however, significant animal welfare concerns with this method. These include the need to handle the birds manually to place them into shackles, hanging them by their feet, and it is very hard to control the consistency of electrical stun each chicken receives. This process causes the birds extreme stress.

The Solution

Shutterstock 1493436362

Controlled Atmospheric Stunning (CAS) systems which use inert gas, or effective electrical stunning without handling live birds upside down, are another of the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment. 

These systems work on a stun-kill basis, so there is no risk of the chickens recovering consciousness after stunning. Another significant advantage is that the birds can remain in their transport modules throughout the whole process, avoiding the need for live handling. 

Compliance with third-party animal welfare auditing and annual reporting

Compliance with third-party animal welfare auditing and annual reporting

Read more

More and more consumers are interested in the provenance of their food and want to know about how the animals are reared.

Animal welfare certification is key, so if you buy chicken or other animal-based products, it is important to look out for recognised logos or assurance schemes that have recognised welfare benefits. Phrases such as ‘trusted farms’, ‘trusted farmers’, ‘butcher’s choice’ or ‘reared with care’ do NOT have a legal definition you can rely on.

The Solution

Shutterstock 1228945870

The Better Chicken Commitment requires companies to rear their chickens in higher welfare systems that comply with, and are audited by, recognised welfare assurance schemes. The following schemes meet the Better Chicken Commitment standards:

  • RSPCA Assured (it has to be at the ‘Assured’ level)
  • Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare (it has to be at the ‘Enhanced Welfare’ level)
  • Soil Association


M&S is the only UK retailer to have 100% of its fresh chicken (under its OakhamTM Gold label in its ‘Remarksable’ range) meet the Better Chicken Commitment standards and is RSPCA Assured.

Image of an M&S higher welfare broiler chicken and Oakham Gold label

M&S was the first UK retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment in 2018, and is leading the way in transforming the market. 

"We want to keep raising the bar to improve welfare. It’s something we know our customers care deeply about and we do too."
Andrew Clappen, Technical Director, M&S


Read our case study to find out more about how M&S made this move to only sell higher welfare fresh chicken.

So what other companies have signed up to the BCC?

In Europe, over 380 companies have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, pledging to introduce the higher welfare criteria for all the chickens in their supply chain by 2026.

Norwegian poultry producer Norsk Kylling has successfully transitioned 100% of its chicken production to meet the higher welfare requirements of the BCC, setting a new benchmark for the poultry industry. Read our case study on how they achieved this.

The companies below are some of the well-known brands that have signed up to use healthier, happier chickens reared in better environments. Please support them on their journey and encourage those companies that haven't yet made the BCC pledge to get on board with higher welfare chicken!

You can find out more about the progress some of these companies are making in implementing these standards in our latest ChickenTrack Report

KFC Logo
Greggs logo
Nando’s logo
Pizza Express logo
Waitrose & Partners logo
M&S logo
Unilever logo
Nestlé logo
HelloFresh logo
YO! Sushi logo
Gousto logo
The Big Table Group logo
CH&CO logo
Compass Group logo
Sodexo logo
Elior Group logo
Aramark logo
Danone logo
REMA 1000 logo
Norsk Kylling logo
Aldi France logo
Lidl France logo
Carrefour logo
Casino Group logo
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Schiever logo
Monoprix logo
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Fridays logo
Subway logo
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