Our food system cannot continue to operate as it is

COVID-19 highlighted the interconnectedness of animal welfare and human welfare. Beyond protecting their lives, there are many vital benefits to animal protection.

Despite all this, the food system continues placing farmed animals under immense pressure, often causing them cruelty and suffering.

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Factory farms are home to an estimated 50 billion chickens every year. This is one of the worst examples of animal cruelty that we have ever seen. This method of meat production is inhumane. The chickens are genetically chosen to reach slaughter weight in a matter of weeks and kept in cramped sheds that lack natural light.

These animals are often under stress and need antibiotics to stop them dying. 75% of all antibiotics used worldwide are in agriculture. This allows for the growth of superbugs that can pose serious health risks. Superbug infections that are resistant to antibiotics cause the deaths of approximately 700,000.

Our food system cannot continue to operate as it is in the face of a worldwide pandemic. We must shift to humane farming methods that give farmed animals the chance for a happy life. We have worked closely with you in pushing companies to stop factory farming chickens.

What are the performance of fast-food companies in regards to chicken welfare?

We launched “The pecking Order” in 2019. This is a review of eight of the most popular fast-food chains worldwide on broiler welfare. It was selected for its size and popularity.

We use only publicly available data to assess companies in three areas.

Commitment (corporate obligations): Does it clearly state the importance of chicken welfare?

Ambition (objectives, targets): Does it have a timeline that clearly outlines the goals, targets, and promises a company made to improve chicken welfare? When will they achieve them?

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Transparency (performance reporting: Does it report on the performance of the company to demonstrate that they are living up to their promises?

Our methodology aligns with the well-known Better Chicken Commitment, (BCC). This is a list of higher-welfare standards to which hundreds of companies have signed up around the globe. The score of the companies determines which tier they are assigned. These tiers range from 1 (‘Leading) to 6 (‘Very Poor’).

These are the results

The third edition of “The pecking list” has just been launched. While some iconic food companies have begun to pay more attention to chicken welfare in certain parts of the globe, others continue to do little to help the birds. These are the headlines

The most advanced European companies are those that have made the greatest progress

Thanks to half a billion people who signed our petition KFC agreed to make serious changes for chickens. After signing up to BCC, the company moves from ‘Poor in 2019 to “Making Progress” in 2021. They will disclose progress in the UK and Ireland, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden. KFC is the only company that has achieved ‘Leading” positions in our local rankings for Denmark, Sweden, UK, and Netherlands.

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Since the last assessment, Burger King and Nando’s have partnered with the BCC in UK. Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, also known as Domino’s Pizza, has signed up for the BCC in France and Germany.

There is a lot of geographic variation and commitments are not coming quickly enough.

McDonald’s has not signed up for the BCC in any country, despite moving from ‘Poor’ up to ‘Getting Started’.

Domino’s Pizza Group PLC is the only brand that received a ‘Very Poor’ grade. This ranking demonstrates a worrying lack of interest in chicken welfare.

Companies based in North America or Europe are most likely to make commitments to improving chicken welfare. The BCC has not been signed by any companies in Latin America, Africa, or Asia. This has to change, as chickens deserve a decent life wherever they live in the world.

It is difficult to report on the percentage of chickens that meet standard.

Companies gain most points through their commitments and achievement of targets. The reporting of the percentage of chickens meeting their standards is not available.

Since 2019, companies that are mostly aligned to the BCC in North America, namely Burger King (USA and Canada), Starbucks and Subway USA (USA), have not provided any performance reporting data.

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Change is possible with this powerful tool

There are still huge differences in the way companies deal with farmed animal welfare. This applies to both companies and how companies deal with issues in different countries.

Companies that fail to take action to improve animal welfare are at serious risk. In many countries, consumers are more interested in animal welfare than ever before. There is also a wide range of meat alternatives available, including plant-based proteins. Many consumers will be demanding higher welfare chicken. They may look elsewhere if it isn’t available.