Marks and Spencer announce major change to fresh chicken range – ‘others need to follow’

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According to the retailer, it already has the highest animal welfare standards in the market and from next year, all fresh chicken sold in M&S will be slower-reared, British and RSPCA Assured. This means that the birds will be fed on a multigrain diet, specifically designed to support their slower natural growth and muscle development.

It comes after concerns about how animals are looked after before they reach the supermarket shelves.

Four supermarkets including Morrisons and Tesco recently dropped a pig-farming company after footage showed them neglecting and abusing the animals.

Marks and Spencer customers can already buy slower-reared chicken at the Food Hall, including whole chickens, portions and chicken breasts.

From Autumn 2022, this will apply to all fresh chicken products.

Stuart Machin, M&S Food Managing Director said: “M&S has a long history of leading on animal welfare standards, working with our M&S Select farmers we know and trust.

“We were the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the first major retailer to move to 100 percent Free Range eggs and all our pork is 100 percent outdoor bred.

“We already have the biggest range of RSPCA Assured products on the market but we constantly want to raise the bar – that is why we are making this industry-leading commitment.

“It will lead to a step-change in UK farming standards and show customers that our determination to maintain the highest welfare standards means they will always get exceptional quality and trusted value at M&S.”

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The story will feature in the long-running ‘Fresh Market Update’ TV campaign from July 21.

Chris Sherwood, RSPCA Chief Executive added: “With its move to RSPCA Assured in this category, M&S has extended its already leading position and can assure its customers that they are buying higher welfare chicken, reared to the RSPCA’s high standards – throughout its entire range.

“It’s a landmark achievement for animal welfare, which we hope will set a leading example for others in the sector.

“By simply switching to using only slower-growing breeds of chicken, retailers can make an enormous difference to the lives and welfare of millions of chickens reared in this country every year for their meat.”

Taking to social media to share their thoughts on the move, customers were delighted with the change.

One person tweeted: “Although I don’t eat meat, this is a huge step in the industry and others need to follow.”

Another said: “Wow, Marks and Spencers making huge moves here.”

“Love to see it, M&S will always be my favourite.”

Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming said: “We applaud M&S for being the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the first to start transitioning supply, and the first to roll out product on shelf with their ‘Oakham Gold’ fresh chicken.

“Making commitments across the entire supply is a major step towards higher welfare chicken becoming a baseline standard, however concrete plans and contracts with suppliers are imperative to move the market forwards. 

“Companies that have made the Better Chicken Commitment must start their transition now and those that are yet to sign up need to get on board.

“M&S are leading in the UK market and we urge others to follow suit if we are to succeed in achieving genuine change for chickens.”

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