BPC queries RSPCA figures

Meanwhile, the British Poultry Council is questioning the RSPCA figures on consumer purchasing of poultry

The British Poultry Council, which represents British chicken farmers and processors, has challenged the RSPCA's claims today that there had been a huge change in shoppers' buying preferences for chicken.

BPC chief executive, Peter Bradnock, said,"The RSPCA conclusion from its own survey is misleading and is not being reflected in the marketplace. The RSPCA is misrepresenting the good standards already in place on British chicken farms to promote its own "Freedom Food" brand and is ignoring the fact that the major retailers are already selling British chickens reared to standards that exceed the "Freedom Food" requirements".

British chickens sold in supermarkets are reared to rigorous Red Tractor Chicken Assurance standards, which cover both indoor and free-range chickens. These Standards are owned and managed independently from the chicken industry, and every farm is inspected at least once every year by independent auditors.

The Red Tractor Assured Chicken Standards are more comprehensive than the RSPCA "Freedom Food" brand requirements ensuring high levels of farm hygiene and food safety for consumers, as well as providing a protective environment for the chickens to be able to express their natural behaviors.

Commenting further, Bradnock said: "The RSPCA's claims about a sudden amazing change in shoppers' behaviour based on its own survey are not borne out by consumers' actual buying decisions in supermarkets.

"Free range chicken sales under Red Tractor standards had been increasing consistently throughout last year, long before the Channel 4 celebrity chefs' entertainment programmes screened in January this year."

January 2008 sales for free range have shown a 35% increase on January 2007 but only an 11% increase on November 2007, showing there was already a significant growth trend.

However, free range chicken sales, at just 6% of total UK chicken sales are still only a small, albeit growing, part of the national shoppers' buying preferences.