Colruyt Group's new welfare chicken: better well-being for broiler chickens

Better living conditions for broiler chickens: that is the ambition of Okay and Colruyt Lowest Prices. In cooperation with the breeders, they will step-by-step introduce stricter welfare criteria for the 'standard' broiler chickens in their assortment and the application of the hatching-in-the-stable principle (NestBorn and One2Born method). The first welfare chickens have been in the store since mid-2022.   

This initiative contributes to our objectives regarding

Updated on 07/11/2023

Stricter well-being criteria

Of course, the poultry breeders we work with always respect legislation. Still, in 2021 Colruyt Lowest Prices and Okay were the first Belgian retailers to take the initiative to work with our suppliers on stricter welfare criteria for chickens, based on the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC).

Colruyt Lowest Prices and Okay are gradually rolling out the stricter criteria to allow their breeders and suppliers to change their production method step by step. Extra bales of straw in the stables are easy to provide. But other elements require an investment and/or some time, such as structural adjustments to the building to provide daylight.

Chicks in the stable With extra sustainability criteria on top of the legal criteria we improve the living circumstances of the chickens step by step.
By applying these new welfare criteria to the 'standard chicken' of the Colruyt Group butcher's departments – more than 88% of their fresh chicken volume – we want to make a real difference and inspire the industry.

The first chicken products meeting the various criteria based on the Better Chicken Commitment have been in the stores since 2022: a slower-growing breed, 40 % more space per chicken, sufficient perches, floor substrates such as straw bales, windows installed to provide daylight, etc.  You can recognise these products by this 'Step by Step' sticker. By 2026, the transition will be completely finalised.

Hatching chicks in the stable: a first in Belgium

After successful pilot projects in 2020 and 2021, we have decided to also include the NestBorn- and the similar One2Born- method in the specifications for chickens of the Colruyt and Okay butcher's department by 2026. A first in Belgium! The aim is to encourage even more breeders for the approach whereby chicks are born where they grow up. This has some major advantages:

  • The chicks are spared the transport from the hatchery to the stable, and the associated transport activities. This translates into less stress.
  • They can immediately start eating and drinking according to their natural rhythm, which has a positive effect on their intestinal health.
  • This improves their general health considerably, which leads to less mortality and less use of antibiotics (up to 50%, or more). 
Chicks and eggs in the stable The hatchery brings the pre-incubated eggs to the stable. Investments or adjustments in the stable are therefore not necessary.
Philippe Toussaint, VAK centre Product Sustainability
Allowing the chicks to be born directly in the stables does not require significant additional costs: the chick may cost more, but the healthier adult chicken requires much less use of antibiotics, which cuts costs.

Exclusive cooperation with 17 Belgian chicken breeders

For more than 90% of the welfare chickens of Colruyt butcher's department, Colruyt Lowest Prices has been collaborating directly with 17 Belgian chicken breeders, a hatchery, a feed mill, and a slaughterhouse, since October 2022. Those breeders work exclusively for Colruyt Group and respect the stricter welfare criteria as described above. And unique in Belgium: they systematically apply the NestBorn method, meaning the chicks are born in the stable. This is how we work together structurally and in the long term to improve chicken welfare.

The breeders are also positive about the transparent production costs and adjusted purchasing prices. “Breeders are guaranteed a fair price that covers additional costs and provides a stable income per square meter," Saskia De Block of Colruyt Group comments in an interview with Vilt. "Breeders themselves report being satisfied with the concept: it requires less management and creates a more pleasant work environment. We meet the expectations and find solutions together.”

'Step by Step' sticker You can recognize the products of our welfare chickens by the 'Step by step'-sticker. 
Delphine Tasiaux, Agri Furfooz in Dinant
We are working with our animals every day and therefore find it important that they have a better life.

Independent monitoring of animal welfare

Based on the new specifications for our welfare chickens, Colruyt Group will have its partners audited by an external, independent organisation as from 2024. Based on this, we can evaluate the approach for more animal welfare and health. Our objective is to enter into dialogue with all our partners in the chain and to implement the new ambitions and criteria together step by step.    

First results of the welfare chicken

  • Colruyt butcher's departments
    During the first 9 months of 2023, 38.1% of the standard chicken products were converted to welfare chickens, accounting for 26.4% of the volume.
  • Okay
    In 2022, 15% of standard chicken products were converted to welfare chickens, which represents 3.6% of the volume.
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