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Free-range chicken sales make front page news

News Section Icon Published 28/02/2008

The welfare of chickens continues to be front page news as consumers become increasingly concerned about how standard chickens are raised.

The front page of The Independent clearly highlights how more and more shoppers are switching to free-range chicken since discovering the reality of cheap chicken production.

According to The Independent, research carried out by market research company TNS shows sales of intensively reared chickens have fallen by 7% since January's high profile campaign, while free-range chickens are selling out due to increased demand. Further research by G2 Data Dynamics has shown how nearly two fifths of consumers have switched to free-range chicken since last month's media coverage.

The growing ethical trend arose after a series of Channel 4 chicken programmes showed celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver highlighting the many welfare implications associated with intensive chicken farming.

In intensive chicken sheds, meat chickens live in barren and crowded conditions. Selectively bred to reach slaughter weight in less than 40 days, scientific research shows that these unnaturally fast growth rates results in millions of chickens suffering from painful leg disorders and millions dying of heart failure each year.

Compassion in World Farming's Food Business Manager, Rowen West-Henzell, said: "This is great news. Consumers were shown the reality behind cheap chicken production and are now making more informed choices."

The switch to free-range hasn't just been good for chickens. Free-range poultry farmers have seen a real increase in demand that appears to be lasting. Poultry farmer Peter Coleman, of Creedy Carver Chickens said to The Grocer that there has been a 15% increase in demand for free-range birds. He said: "There has been a significant upturn in demand for free-range birds... and we have gained a number of new customers. We thought it was speculation and would drop back... but it didn't."

Although the general trend is towards buying free-range, the survey also found that 36% of people are currently committed to intensively produced chicken and will be for the foreseeable future. In a quote given to The Grocer by Grampian Country Food Group, Alasdair Cox reported that the increase in free-range chicken sales had not been 'to the detriment of standard chicken sales'. Miss West-Henzell commented: "We hope to help all consumers see the value of buying free-range - both by continuing to give them the facts about cheap chicken production and by working with supermarkets who want to help all their customers make more ethical choices."


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