Higher welfare alternatives
The following systems offer significantly higher welfare for meat chickens.
Free-range and organic systems
Free to range
Free-range and organic chickens have access to fresh air and green spaces.
The environment can be improved by adding trees and shrubs for cover and shelter.
Free-range meat chickens
In these systems, the chickens are given continuous access to an outdoor range during the daytime and sheds where they are housed at night. Free-range chickens grow more slowly than intensive chickens. They also live longer, at least 56 days. In the EU each chicken must have one square metre of outdoor space.
The benefits are a reduced growth rate and opportunities for natural behaviour such as pecking, scratching, foraging and exercise outdoors, as well as fresh air and daylight. Because they grow slower and have opportunities for exercise free-range chickens have better leg and heart health and a much higher quality of life.
In organic systems, chickens are also free-range. Organic chickens are slower growing, more traditional breeds and live typically for around 81 days. They grow at half the rate of intensive chickens. They have a larger space allowance outside (at least 2.5 square metres).
Higher welfare indoor
In these systems, such as Tesco Willow Farm and Co-op Elmwood, chickens are kept indoors but with more space (around 12 to 14 birds per square metre). They have a richer environment: including natural light and straw bales to encourage natural behaviour like foraging and perching.
RSPCA Freedom Food birds grow significantly more slowly, living for up to two weeks longer than intensively farmed birds.
Find out how you can help to end the intensive farming of chickens.