Criteria for mouth-watering chicken
A tender piece of chicken always tastes wonderful. Especially when you know that the meat comes from chickens, which have been bred with respect in a healthy environment. If you buy chicken fillets in our shops, you can be sure of that. Because, in November 2016, we drew up new, stronger quality and sustainability criteria with our poultry suppliers. We did this to improve the welfare and health of the chickens, as well as to feed them efficiently. Monitoring allows us to follow up the results thoroughly.
Attention to animal welfare
Our poultry farmers adhere to a lot of 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’: this means that every animal can behave in a way typical to its type. Chickens can take a dust bath and the shed has plenty of perches and straw bales. We ask our farmers to ensure that there is sufficient daylight so that the chickens can keep to a natural day and night time rhythm. This is not only better for the chickens, it also makes the meat tastier.
Together with our poultry farmers, we opt for optimum feed conversion: this means that the chickens get the exact amount of food they need to grow as well and as healthily as possible. That’s why we analyse the data on feed volume and animal growth.
In animal feed, soy is a protein-rich crop, which is mainly imported from South America. Feeding soybean meal has advantages, but also many drawbacks. In order to make the chicken feed more sustainable, we’re also looking for an alternative to soy, which can be produced locally. Insects and worms for example. Chickens in the garden eat them, so why not? However, this has been banned since 2001 because, according to European regulations, insects and worms are ‘animal protein’. We, along with our farmers, are waiting for new regulations.
Learning and improving together
We also collect data about the health of the chickens from our suppliers. From their data, we get a good overview of the state of affairs and can come up with clear aims and priorities. For example, suppliers examine chickens’ feet for foot lesions. These are foot injuries from a damp floor or too little ventilation. Another priority is reducing antibiotic resistance. We examine all this data with our suppliers.
First results from monitoring
After analysing the initial data from our direct suppliers, we make an initial individual report for each supplier, including feedback on their approach to animal welfare and health. We discuss this report with them in person. Their own performance is compared with that of their colleagues. With complete anonymity of course. The feed suppliers will receive an initial report at the end of 2017, whereas our direct suppliers will also receive a second one.
We’re still working to improve our reporting methods. In time, individual poultry farmers will also receive separate feedback on their results. So they can compare themselves to the sector. This is totally unique: by doing so, we want to enter into a dialogue with all our partners in the chain. Only then can we all realise our ambitions.
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.
Three categories of chicken
At Colruyt, OKay and Spar, you’ll find three kinds of chicken in the meat fridges and butchers: the ‘standard chicken’ (Belgium), the certified Val Dieu chicken (Belgium) and the Red Label (French free-range) chicken. Depending on the type of chicken they raise, farmers adhere to different quality criteria, such as the breeding density, the amount of grain in the feed or the rate at which the chicken reaches its saleable size.
With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.