Dutch supermarkets will sell only free-range chicken in 202316 Sep 2021
By 2023, supermarkets in the Netherlands will only sell free-range chicken products. This move toward improving the animal welfare of chickens sold in the Netherlands will only apply to fresh chicken products. Other products such as frozen chicken or chicken soup may still contain fast-growing broiler chickens.
To ensure that the fresh chicken meat sold in supermarkets is actually free-range, the products will need to maintain at least a one-star rating on a new “Beter Leven” (Better Life) label. This label is obtained through the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals and is earned through an assessment and inspection process that reviews the entire supply chain involved in the production of fresh chicken. This review process is periodically reconducted to renew the animal welfare designation associated with the product.
A one-star rating – the new minimum for fresh chicken products – means that animals have sufficient space and “play materials.” A two-star rating indicates that animals have access to even more space than those with a single star and also have access to the outdoors. Three stars mean “animals get as much freedom as possible to live their lives the way they would wish,” which includes space, rest and indoor-outdoor playtime.
Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn became the first retailer to adopt this rating system this past March. Following the retail chain’s decision to stop selling battery chickens, all other Dutch supermarkets followed suit, with Boni being the last one to adopt the animal welfare label as its standard.
According to the Dutch SPA, less than 1% of the 450 million animals annually produced by Dutch farmers are kept in systems that practice organic and free-range policies. To improve the welfare of the other 99% of production animals that live in “very intensive not very animal-friendly systems,” the Dutch SPA developed the better life label.
Despite the positive response surrounding the adoption of this new labeling scheme, some, including retailer Boni, expressed misgivings about the potential climate impact of this choice.
Free-range chickens live longer than battery-raised broiler chickens due to the time it takes to develop to the correct size. In turn, this longer life requires more feed, heating and space, making the production of free-range chicken more resource-intensive. These factors can lead to an overall increase in carbon dioxide production from chicken producers.
Additionally, providing an acceptable free-range environment in which to raise these chickens will require investment from some farmers that need to expand both indoor and outdoor space. Such additional costs could potentially be passed down to the consumer.
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