Red Tractor’s Enhanced Welfare chicken scheme has accepted the Hubbard Redbro breed to its standard after research found it delivered high-welfare outcomes while being economically viable.
The Better Chicken Commitment-approved breed was said by Red Tractor to have higher welfare outcomes in comparison to other indoor birds. It also offered a “lower feed conversion ratio” compared with other slower-growing breeds – ie the broiler is more efficient in converting feed into live weight and meat.
Not only did this mean farms of all sizes could save money on feed, but they would also be less reliant on environmentally damaging inputs, like soy, which would allow them to boast a “significantly smaller carbon footprint” than other chickens, Red Tractor added.
It also suggested the resulting lower supply chain costs could make high-welfare chicken more affordable for consumers.
The evaluation of the breed incorporated data inputs from food production experts and genetics companies, as well as animal welfare campaign group Compassion in World Farming, which is one of the leading organisations attached to the Better Chicken Commitment.
These inputs consisted of an independent broiler breed welfare assessment trial, commercial trial results and a range of other assessments, which were cross-referenced with other available data by Red Tractor’s technical advisory committee.
“We have worked with NGOs, farmers, vets, scientists, animal welfare and food production experts to deliver a robust process for evaluating breeds,” said Red Tractor CEO Jim Moseley. “This process has enabled Red Tractor to evaluate data from both commercial the broiler breed welfare assessment trials, which demonstrated that the Hubbard Redbro was commensurate in welfare outcomes with breeds already on the BCC-approved breeds lists.
“Our decision to include the Hubbard Redbro on our Enhanced Welfare module breeder lists is an important step forward for the poultry industry. Its superior environmental and economic credentials will be a boon for food businesses seeking to meet the requirements of the BCC.”
Moseley’s comments were backed by Co-op head of agriculture Caroline Mason, who said the inclusion of the breed would “deliver a bigger pool of breed choice” for supply chains seeking to improve their animal welfare credentials.
Launched in June 2020, Red Tractor’s Enhanced Welfare marque mandates the use of slower-growing chicken breeds and more space and natural light in barns to encourage natural behaviours like pecking, scratching, wing flapping and the use of perches.
Participating poultry producers are also required to reduce stocking densities from 38 kg/m² to 30kg/m².