Animal welfare group Open Cages filmed last year at four farms supplying Morrisons’ welfare-assured Butcher’s on Market Street label. They said: “On every farm, birds were surrounded by rotting bodies, suffering chemical burns from laying in their own urine and faeces and barely able to spread their wings amidst the crowded conditions.”
The group said although the firm is launching a small range of chicken reared to higher welfare standards, it is a “cheap” gesture as the retailer continues to source the vast majority of its chicken meat from “intensively farmed Frankenchickens”.
The group wants retailers to sign the Better Chicken Committment, which prohibits fast growing chickens and crowded conditions as a baseline.
In February, Defra endorsed the policy and pledged to “prioritise” its implementation through subsidies. Open Cage said M&S, Waitrose, KFC and Subway are amongst hundreds of companies to have pledged to stop selling “Frankenchickens”.
Open Cages say measures Morrisons has adopted, like in house hatching, do not address the issues. CEO Connor Jackson said: “Let’s remember what we’re asking for: we simply want Morrisons to follow the hundreds of other companies who have already committed to taking Frankenchickens off the shelves.
“These practices are opposed by the vast majority of the British public, and Morrisons could make this pledge overnight if they spent as much time on their welfare standards as they did playing PR games.”
A Morrisons spokesman said: “We care deeply about animal welfare. All our regular chicken is raised to above Red Tractor standards; we are also the only retailer in Europe to ask our fresh chicken suppliers to require chicken to be born into the barn in which it will be raised by 2025.
“Eighty per cent of our fresh chicken meets this standard already. We also actively monitor for malpractice in our supply chain; we will never tolerate it or look the other way and if we ever find it, we will act swiftly and decisively.”