Continental Foods commits to combatting the worst practices of farming and slaughtering chickens

Continental Foods commits to combatting the worst practices of farming and slaughtering chickens

GAIA informs
10 October 2019

Owner of the Devos Lemmens, Liebig, Royco and Aïki brands, the Continental Foods Group is the latest signatory to the Better Chicken Commitment, a charter supported by the largest animal protection NGOs in Europe. In close collaboration with GAIA, the Belgian leader in agri-food commits to no longer sourcing chickens bred to grow extremely quickly in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden by 2026.

The criteria stipulated in the Better Chicken Commitment: reducing stocking density in farms, slower growth, natural light, a better living environment, an end to hanging live chickens on the shackle line when they are slaughtered, which are supported by GAIA and thirty animal protection associations in Europe, strive to eradicate the worst chicken farming and slaughtering practices.

In a country where almost 97% of chickens are bred on intensive, or industrial farms, tightly packed in vast broiler sheds in their tens of thousands, the farms and abattoirs will not be transformed overnight. The Continental Foods Group has set 2026 as the target for honouring this commitment.  

Michel Vandenbosch, President and Co-founder of the Belgian association for animal protection GAIA (Global Action in the Interest of Animals), believes this decision by Continental Foods sends out a strong signal to the industry as a whole: “It constitutes an important decision that will make a considerable difference because it will result in an improvement in the quality of life of several million vulnerable animals.We encourage the other agri-food groups, as well as fast-food chains and the catering and hospitality sector, to derive inspiration from this commitment by the Belgian agri-food leader and to put an end to the worst practices involved in broiler chicken farming and slaughtering.” 

An impact on several million chickens

Founded in Belgium, Continental Foods is one of the leading agri-food companies in Europe, operating in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden. Thomas Bittinger, CEO of Continental Foods, explains: “At Continental Foods, we take our social responsibility seriously. Animal welfare is important to our consumers and to us, and we believe it is a key component of a sustainable supply chain.This is why we have banned all eggs from caged hens from our products already some years ago.With this new commitment, we are taking the next step in order to help improve the welfare of farmed chickens too.”

Continental Foods is convinced that 50% of its Belgian products will be ECC compliant by 2024, but unfortunately not all of them. In fact, one of Continental Foods' largest suppliers for the Belgian market, Diana Foods, will only be ECC compliant as of 2026. “We will ensure this commitment is honoured, because the stakes are high for the animals concerned”, insists Michel Vandenbosch of GAIA.

A spreading movement

As a result of this formal commitment, Continental Foods joins the hitherto small circle of companies, such as Aoste in Belgium, seeking to alleviate the suffering of chickens in their supply chains. A number of prestigious companies such as Nestlé, Danone, Unilever, Dr Oetker and more recently KFC, have already committed to fulfilling the criteria of the Better Chicken Commitment in their European operations, thanks to the demands of and sustained efforts by the international coalition of associations, Open Wing Alliance, which GAIA represents in Belgium.  

Vicky Bond, Managing Director of The Humane League UK, says: “The Open Wing Alliance and The Humane League applaud Continental Foods for taking this bold and meaningful step for chickens in their supply chain. As a leading European manufacturer, Continental Foods will help influence other companies looking to make positive changes by improving animal welfare, and pave the way to eliminate some of the worst practices seen within the industry. We'd like to thank them for being a part of the corporate movement to reduce animal suffering.”

What is the Better Chicken Commitment?

The Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) establishes crucial changes to broiler chicken farms to meet the basic needs of vulnerable beings. The six commitments aim to guarantee that, by 2026, 100% of chicken [fresh, frozen and processed] in the supply chain respects the following criteria:

  • Compliance with European animal welfare legislation and regulations. Regardless of the country of production;
  • A lower stocking density (max. 30 kg/m2);
  • The adoption of breeds characterised by slower growth, to provide better quality of life;
  • Enhanced living space for the chickens (access to natural light, perches and pecking substrates);
  • Humane slaughter either by means of atmospheric stunning or using efficient and irreversible electrical stunning methods;
  • An external audit to demonstrate compliance with the norms and annual public reporting on the progress achieved.

The full text of the charter can be read via this link:  https://welfarecommitments.com/letters/europ/uk  

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