Colruyt and OKay commit to more welfare for broilers

Halle, 16 August 2021 - Colruyt Lowest Prices and OKay are the first Belgian retailers to switch to the higher animal welfare criteria, based on the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) for its broiler chickens. The goal of these criteria is to improve the animal welfare of broilers in Belgian nurseries: the chickens receive more space and daylight. We also switch to a slower growing breed. By applying these criteria for the standard chicken, which represents the biggest volume, Colruyt and OKay want to take their responsibility and push the Belgian market towards more animal welfare. The ambition is to roll out the BCC criteria by 2026, together with the suppliers.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Better Chicken Commitment

From 2026 onwards, the standard chicken you can buy in the butcher's and frozen food sections of Colruyt Lowest Prices (private label Boni) and OKay, will comply with the strict criteria of the Better Chicken Commitment. The initiative was launched in 2017 by some 30 NGOs who labour for animal welfare in Europe. BCC stands for higher criteria in terms of animal welfare. The chickens get 40% more space by keeping fewer chickens per square metre and there will be daylight in the barns. We will also switch to a slower growing breed and the chickens will live longer: 49 up to 56 days instead of 42. The chickens will also have two metres of perches and two picks (grains, straw bales) per 1,000 chickens to stimulate their natural behaviour.

Chicks born in the barn

Colruyt and OKay will go even further than the BCC criteria by allowing chicks to be born directly in the barn. This technique has two advantages: chicks no longer need to be transported and handled alive, which causes stress; and the chicks have immediate access to water and food, which is good for gut health. This process significantly improves the overall health of the chicks and ultimately leads to a reduction in the use of antibiotics. Some suppliers already use the Nestborn or One2Born method, which will eventually be included in the specifications for broiler chickens.

Gradual transition, together with the suppliers

Colruyt and OKay are aware that it is not always easy for their partners to change their production methods to new elements for more animal welfare. Some elements are easy to implement, like putting extra straw bales in the barns. Others require a considerable investment and more time. Changes to the structure of the building to let in more light for example. “For this reason, we will roll out the project gradually," says Guy Elewaut, marketing manager of Colruyt Lowest Prices “instead of cutting ourselves off from a sector that is important to the Belgian economy – more than 230 Belgian nurseries for Colruyt – we take our responsibility and choose to assist our partners in their sustainability process.”

For our customers nothing changes: Colruyt Lowest Prices will continue to guarantee the lowest prices for chickens. Guy Elewaut: “we remain true to our brand promises, even when we increase our standards.”

Two Belgian scoops

Colruyt Lowest Prices and OKay are the first retailers in Belgium that will apply the Better Chicken Commitment criteria as from 2026. Guy Elewaut: “With these new criteria, we take a big step forward in animal welfare for chickens. We make it easier for our customers to make a sustainable choice in terms of animal welfare. In addition, we hope to have a positive impact on the entire sector. By applying these criteria to our standard chicken, which represents more than 73% of our total chicken volume, we hope to make a difference and inspire the sector.” Today, more than 200 large companies in the food sector committed to the Better Chicken Commitment, making these criteria the norm of the future for the European standard chicken. Colruyt and OKay will also be the first retailers to include the Nestborn and One2Born technique in their specifications.

Step by step

Animal welfare is high on Colruyt Group's agenda and is one of the pillars of its sustainability policy. In the past, Colruyt Group already took several initiatives to improve animal welfare. The retailer was the first one to stop selling eggs from caged hens and to ban the castration of piglets. Rabbit meat comes from animals who lived in animal-friendly park systems. And in the slaughterhouses, measures are taken to control the slaughtering process to make sure it causes as little stress and pain as possible. Stefan Goethaert, general manager of Colruyt Group Fine Food and responsible for the sustainability policy: “Our objective is crystal-clear: animals must be treated with respect throughout the chain. It is a learning process to which we want to commit, step by step. First with our suppliers, but also with the sector and the competent authorities.”