Some Companies Promise Improvements in Chicken Welfare

In other corporate responsibility news, restaurants and producers are beginning to make commitments to improve the lives of chickens raised for meat (known to the industry as “broiler” chickens). For instance, Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Starbucks announced that they aspire to improve birds’ living conditions by 2024 by providing more space per bird, environmental enrichments, and better lighting conditions.

Similar to the cage-free movement for egg-laying hens, it will be hard to ensure that companies stick to commitments. Unlike companies promising to go cage free, however, these companies are declaring that they will report progress on a regular basis. Additionally, they plan to pursue third-party certification to ensure that birds are raised to these new standards.

In the United States, almost 9 billion birds are slaughtered for food each year. These new commitments, if widely adopted, could have a monumental impact on the welfare of birds. Currently, there are no legal requirements for how birds (or any other farm animals) are raised, and industry standards allow for overcrowded, barren, dimly lit barns in which welfare is extremely poor. It will be years before the impact of these commitments are truly known, but it is a positive sign that some companies are promising not only change but also transparency.