Decent living conditions for chickens
We closely monitor the living conditions of chickens at the farms based on the quality and sustainability criteria we drew up with our suppliers at the end of 2016. And now also with new commitments to further improve the living conditions of our standard broiler chickens, by applying new criteria based on the Better Chicken Commitment.
Care for animal welfare
Our poultry farmers adhere to a lot of (legal) criteria concerning the welfare, health and hygiene of their chickens.
- Sufficient fresh drinking water
- Healthy shed climate
- Good hygiene
- Stress and anxiety kept to a minimum
- Responsible and careful use of medicines
- Room for natural behaviour
‘Natural behaviour’ means that the animals can behave in a way typical to their kind. We ask our poultry breeders to enhance their barns with straw bales or sitting platforms, and to sprinkle whole grains to stimulate natural behaviour and activity. The breeders also make sure the chickens can keep to a natural day-night rhythm. This is not only better for the chickens, it also makes the meat tastier.
Two Belgian scoops: Colruyt and OKay commit themselves to more welfare for broiler chickens
Colruyt Lowest Prices and OKay are the first Belgian retailers to commit to 2 Belgian scoops: the application of the Better Chicken Commitment criteria to broiler chickens and the application of the Nestborn or One2Born method allowing chicks to hatch out in the barn.
Better Chicken Commitment
In cooperation with the suppliers, Colruyt and OKay start to roll out the Better Chicken Commitment criteria (BCC) as well. By 2026, the standard chicken you can buy at the butcher's or frozen department of Colruyt and OKay will comply with these strict criteria aiming to improve broiler chicken welfare in Belgian poultry farms. The chickens receive 40 % more space and daylight and the farms switch to a slower-growing breed. By applying these standards to the standard chicken, which represents the largest volume, Colruyt and OKay want to take their responsibility and push the Belgian market in de direction of more animal welfare. It is our ambition to roll out the BCC criteria in cooperation with our suppliers, step by step.
Allowing chicks to hatch out in the barn
Moreover, Colruyt and OKay go even further than the BCC standards by allowing chicks to hatch out directly in the barns. This technique presents two advantages:
- The chicks no longer have to be transported and handled alive, which reduces stress.
- The chicks immediately have access to water and food, improving intestinal health.
The process improves the general health of the chicks considerably and this will eventually lead to less use of antibiotics. We have tested this method in 2020 and 2021 and some suppliers are already using the Nestborn or One2Born methods that will be included in the specifications for broiler chickens.
Animal feed often contains soy, a protein-rich and nutritious crop largely imported from South America. Since 2016, we have been purchasing RTRS certificates for sustainable soy. These certificates correspond to the total amount of soy needed in our meat production chains. These certificates are purchased from around 30 soy farmers, who are supported by us together with the NGO Trias, to help them farm more sustainably. We also support the experimental soy culture in Belgium. To make the chicken feed more sustainable, locally bred insects and worms might be a good alternative. However, these ‘animal proteins’ have been banned from Europe since 2001.
Learning and improving together
Since 2017 we gather information about the well-being and health of the chickens from our suppliers (feed suppliers, poultry farmers and slaughterhouses). We record the number of leg injuries and the number of dead animals that arrive at the slaughterhouse. In the future, we also want to monitor the use of antibiotics more effectively and reduce their use where possible, to prevent bacteria becoming resistant to the medicine.
We use the data gathered to give our suppliers an annual report about their efforts for more animal welfare and health. This report compares their individual performance with that of their (anonymous) colleagues. Each breeder, feed supplier or slaughterhouse can make the comparison with his colleagues and this allows us to formulate clear ambitions and priorities together.
By working together intensively with suppliers and poultry farmers, we strengthen the dialogue in the supply chain and, together, we can work, step by step, towards more sustainable production.
In dialogue with all partners
The slaughterhouses received a first report in 2017, the farmers and feed manufacturers early 2018. The 2019 report (reporting on data from 2018) and the 2020 report (reporting on data from 2019) allow us to see the year-on-year trend. This way of working illustrates our willingness to dialogue with all the chain partners. Indeed, we can only accomplish our ambitions and make the sector more sustainable if we do it together.
With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.