Our criteria for mouth-watering chicken
A tender piece of chicken is always nice and tastes even better when you know the meat comes from animals bred in healthy circumstances. That is why we monitor these living conditions conscientiously; according to quality and sustainability criteria we drew up with our suppliers in 2016. We do this to improve the welfare and health of the chickens, step by step.
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.
Healthy from the start
In 2020 and 2021, we are carrying out trials with two breeders of broiler chickens. Instead of transporting chicks from the hatchery to the breeders, the hatchery delivers the eggs to the breeders. The chicks will hatch in the barn and continue to live there. This method can have lots of advantages:
- The chicks are spared the stress of being transported and all the associated transport movements.
- The chicks can immediately start eating and drinking according to their natural rhythm, which can have a positive effect on their digestion and immunity. We are currently investigating if this has a positive effect on reducing health problems, infections, diarrhoea and foot injuries.
- Healthy chicks may also need less antibiotics.
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.