Over time, animal welfare has become a public health issue. Its strong credentials are becoming a way for businesses to differentiate their products from others by translating them to sustainable returns.
A happy chicken in the open farm. Image for reference. Photo credit – World Animal Protection
Recently, World Animal Protection launched a global assessment investigating the welfare of chickens raised for their meat to be supplied to the world’s biggest Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) chains. But, shockingly, most companies have shown no inclination to improve standards in Asian markets like India, so consumers are unwittingly buying meat of chickens that are subject to unnecessary suffering in low welfare conditions. Many companies’ welfare standards are worryingly low, even though COVID-19 – which is thought to have originated from animals and passed to humans – has highlighted the links between the economy, animals and people.
However, an Indian brand, ‘Licious’, takes the lead over global QSRs in India for raising their animal welfare standards and has committed to chicken welfare which would benefit over 12 million birds per year. By 2030, all suppliers of Licious will have to meet the following requirements for 100% of the broiler chicken in their supply chain:
Maximum stocking density of 2.7kg / ft2 (30kg/ m2) and prohibit broiler cages. Lower stocking densities result in better welfare outcomes.
Provide birds enriched environments, including
At least 50 lux of light, including natural light
Meaningful enrichments including suitable perching spaces and pecking substrates (at least two per 1,000 birds).
Full floor coverage with dry and friable litter
Air quality: the concentration of ammonia (NH3) must not exceed 20 ppm and the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) must not exceed 3000 ppm.
No cages or multi-tier systems if they are used in the specific market.
Demonstrate compliance with all standards via third-party auditing
Poor animal welfare standards can pose risks to companies’ sales and reputation; thus, it has become one of the critical ranges of ESG factors for investors to consider in terms of risks and opportunities. Licious is also the first Indian company in the fresh meat and seafood industry that pledged to be ESG compliant by mid-2022. In the past few years, many investors have also been sending out loud messages to food producers and retailers that healthy profits need healthy animals, which requires an urgent address to higher animal welfare standards. Hence, higher animal welfare is the need of the hour.
While it’s encouraging to see some of the global companies starting to take chicken welfare seriously in parts of the world, the results remain extremely concerning in India. Where on one hand, there are companies leading in European markets; on the other hand, the same companies remain unresponsive in India despite over 11K people signing up and even sending them the open letter directly demanding higher welfare chicken. This proves that progress is possible, but most companies still have a long way to give chickens better lives. There is a lot of room for improvement, even for companies at the top. Still, these companies need to take animal welfare seriously in other markets, like India, as animal welfare requires urgent addressal during these challenging times for both human and animal health.
Vivek Gupta & Abhay Hanjura, Co-founders, Licious, says, “Earlier this year, we committed to being an ESG compliant organisation by 2022. Our ESG task force has hit the ground running & we have been making tangible progress. The commitment to chicken welfare is big on our ESG agenda, given that chicken occupies over 40% share amongst all our product categories. Licious is a purpose-driven organization that prides itself on being at the cutting edge of transforming a hitherto largely ignored meat and fisheries industry. We will continue our dedicated efforts towards a complete realisation of the ESG pledge.”
Says Rajesh K, Chief Quality & Sustainability Officer, Licious, “The importance of sustainability and the need to source & consume safe & sustainable produce is a noticeable trend in India, particularly after the pandemic. We, at Licious, are committed to bringing the best to our customers. Our commitment to chicken welfare reiterates the same. In line with Chicken Welfare commitment Licious is exploring similar welfare programs in other categories as well. For Fish and Seafood, Licious has initiated an association with Friend of the Sea, the leading sustainable seafood ecolabel in the world, certifying both wild and farmed fish & seafood. It is the only recognized international program supervised by National Accreditation Bodies to provide sustainable seafood to its customers.”
Gajender K. Sharma, Country Director India at World Animal Protection, says, “As more people take an active interest in the ethics of their food, more companies are willing to act. Now is the time for real change to happen, and companies that fail to move with the demands of the market are causing misery to millions of animals and risking their reputation. We are proud to see Licious taking the lead and hope others will also address this immediate issue by improving chicken welfare.”
World Animal Protection is calling on these global companies to lead and ensure that any chickens being served at their restaurants are guaranteed a life worth living. The companies assessed in ‘The pecking order’ have a seismic opportunity at their hands and could use their power to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of animals.
Notes to editors