British chicken industry head is stuck in the past
The world is changing: meat-free options are booming, and awareness of animal welfare is evolving. But the figurehead of the British Poultry Council, which represents chicken farmers across the UK, is quite clearly stuck in the past. In an article in the Guardian this week headed "Chicken mega-farms are how we'll feed the UK," Richard Griffiths clamoured for more intensive farming, more meat production, more cruelty.
Intensive farming may seem like a 'modern' model of farming, with all its technological machinery and automation. But it is a product of the industrial age, an outdated practice we as a country are starting to move away from.
Chickens on standard intensive farms of the kind that Griffiths seeks to increase live miserable lives. They are bred to grow so big, so fast, their bodies can't keep up. They are crammed together in sheds containing up to 20,000 other birds, at risk of a whole host of diseases.
Griffiths wonders how we will we possibly stuff a growing population full of cheap, low-quality chicken, if we don't stuff the chickens themselves into factory farms? Clearly, he did not stop to consider that maybe people won't want to consume chicken at an ever-increasing rate when they know how it is produced.
Because this nation of animal-lovers is waking up to the cruelties of factory farming. This year, for the first time ever, free-range egg production overtook that of caged and barn production. We have witnessed a cage-free revolution in the UK. And with 95% of all farmed land animals in the UK being chickens raised for meat, and 95% of these raised on intensive farms, chicken farming is one of the most pressing animal welfare issues of our time. So you can be sure that another revolution is yet to come.
This is happening in the US already, where over 90 major companies, such as Burger King and Subway, have committed to meaningful welfare standards for chickens. These standards go far beyond those set by Red Tractor, the UK farm assurance scheme which is scarcely better than adherence to the law.
And indeed, food companies are beginning to make pledges to improve meat chicken welfare in their supply chains in Europe too. Just last week Nestlé produced a pledge spanning Europe and the rest of the world adhering to the Better Chicken Commitment, a set of standards agreed on by a group of animal protection organisations including The Humane League, Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA, World Animal Protection and Animal Equality.
We think it's time the industry caught up with public wishes and corporate aspirations, instead of desperately clinging to outdated, cruel methods of farming. Wouldn't you agree?