This is hugely important as it will significantly lift the welfare standards of the chicken used as ingredient in all of the company's food products. Many of the commitments are already in place for the M&S Oakham fresh chicken.
Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture at M&S said: “Animal welfare is at the heart of our business and we know how important it is to our customers. It is our responsibility to push the boundaries to ensure we can deliver high quality, great value chicken, now and in the future.”
But what does it mean for the chickens?
M&S has committed to providing all chickens in its supply with more space in their barns (by reducing stocking density to 30kg/m2) and to farming a new approved, slower growing breed of bird with better welfare outcomes. The birds will also be provided with natural daylight, perches and pecking substrates. More humane gas stunning and third-party auditing will also be used throughout.
M&S will now work with all their suppliers to ensure that every piece of chicken they sell, be it fresh, frozen or as an ingredient, will meet the required standards by 2026.
The changes must be sustainable
To ensure the changes are sustainable, M&S will begin a series of trials in January to test the new standards to see how they will work in a commercial farming supply chain and gauge how they are received by the consumer.
“Finding the right suppliers to support us on this journey is vitally important,” explained McClean. “I look forward to working with Compassion and our supply chain farmers to help us meet our commitments. Ultimately, we need to do what’s right for our customers, our farmers and for our chickens.”
Compassion is delighted
Our Director of Food Business, Dr Tracey Jones, said: “I am delighted by the commitment M&S has made today. It demonstrates not only a true understanding of the welfare issues in broiler production but a positive will to do something about them.
"Their leadership is to be admired and we will continue to work closely with the M&S team to implement the standards. We need more businesses to follow their lead and more consumers to support higher welfare farming by paying a bit more for healthier, more sustainable chicken.”
The company’s animal welfare credentials are well known - for the past two years M&S has been ranked in ‘tier one’ of the global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare for their higher welfare policies, practices and performance.
Find out more about the work of our Food Business team here.