World Animal Protection Says Fast Food Chains Failing When it Comes to Chicken Welfare

This means consumers are unwittingly buying meat from chickens that are subject to unnecessary suffering and cruelty.

World Animal Protection Says Fast Food Chains Failing When it Comes to Chicken Welfare

This means consumers are unwittingly buying meat from chickens that are subject to unnecessary suffering and cruelty.

Chicken consumed at some of the world's biggest fast food chains such as KFC and Burger King, is under the spotlight as global charity, World Animal Protection, investigates welfare standards of chickens raised for meat.  

'The Pecking Order 2020' report ranks how fast food restaurants are performing on chicken welfare globally, revealing some alarming findings. This means consumers are unwittingly buying meat from chickens that are subject to unnecessary suffering and cruelty. 

Before ending up on your plate, most of the birds being served at these restaurants were raised in cramped, barren environments with no sunlight. Many suffered from lameness and skin lesions as a result of intensive breeding for fast growth and large size. This also places huge pressure on their heart, lungs and legs. Chickens are normally given about 40 days to live until they are slaughtered, when they are still just chicks. Most companies are not showing any plans to improve their standards. Companies were assessed via publicly available information on their commitment, ambition and transparency. 

The companies assessed are Burger King, Domino's Pizza Group, Domino's Inc[1], KFC, McDonald's, Nando's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Subway. Key findings include:

  • Domino's Inc received a score of '0', indicating they have no interest in improving chicken welfare. 
  • Only a third of companies assessed scored above "poor". 
  • Commitments are limited to just the USA, Canada and a small number of European countries. So, more commitment globally is crucial. 
  • Only KFC, has been ranked as 'making progress', based on six EU affiliates signing the Better Chicken Commitment in 2019 – which includes adopting slower growing chicken breeds, giving chickens more natural light and dark cycles, enrichments to satisfy their behavioural needs such as pecking and more space to move around. 
  • KFC has stepped up from fourth place last year, to being the most improved company in 'The Pecking Order 2020'. (Because of their recent commitment in six European countries). This demonstrates progress is possible, but there is still room for improvement. Disappointingly, Pizza Hut has slipped, and Burger King has dropped significantly down.

Lynn Kavanagh, Farming Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection Canada, says, "We are pleased to see KFC stepping up for chickens in six European countries – but this is just the start. KFC should make this commitment in all countries, including Canada. Much more needs to be done to improve broiler chicken welfare, and other companies are severely lagging behind or, in some cases, getting worse."

She adds that tens of billions of birds never get the chance to see sunlight, grow at a healthy rate or behave naturally. Instead, their lives are all too often full of pain, fear, and stress. There is no excuse – these companies have the power to put an end to this suffering that they are causing for their own profits.

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about animal welfare and World Animal Protection will continue to speak up for them and for chickens to put pressure on companies to make real change. 

World Animal Protection has launched the ranking report as part of its Change For Chickens Campaign, which is challenging the fast food industry to end the suffering in meat chicken production worldwide.  The organization urges the food industry to commit to global policy changes that will improve the welfare of billions of chickens. This includes moving companies to:

  • Use chicken breeds that grow at a healthier rate ('slower-growing breeds'). 
  • Ensure that chickens have the space to move around. 
  • Give chickens the opportunity to enjoy natural behaviours via enrichment – including perches or platforms. 
  • Ensure that chickens are slaughtered using more humane methods that avoid live shackling and render all animals unconscious before slaughter.