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Business of Food

Campaigners urge Lidl to sign European Chicken Commitment following factory investigations

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
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Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are calling on German grocery retailer Lidl to sign up to the European Chicken Commitment (ECC), following investigations into animal welfare on its supplier farms.

The campaign, led by animal rights group Equalia and the Albert Schweitzer Foundation Germany, is based on findings from farms in Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Imagery and video from these investigations show broiler chickens in dark, vastly overcrowded spaces. In many cases, these conditions have led to deformities and visible sickness.

Additionally, allegations of animal cruelty have also been put forward, based on the imagery collected from the farms in Spain and Italy.

Equalia says these animal welfare issues can pose huge risks to both sustainability and food safety. The organisation is therefore urging Lidl to become a signatory to the ECC.

Devised by a collection of animal rights organisations including Humane Society International, the RSPCA, World Animal Protection and the Humane League, the ECC requires signatories to work towards certain standards of animal welfare within their supply chain by 2026.

Among the requirements are a pledge to comply with all EU animal welfare laws regardless of country of origin, implementation of a maximum stocking density of 30kg per square-metre, at least 50 lux of light, and at least two metres of usable perch space and two pecking substrates per 1,000 birds.

Additionally, signatories are expected to move towards broiler breeds which have demonstrated “higher welfare outcomes”, such as the Hubbard Norfolk Black chicken and Rambler Ranger chicken.

The ECC also stipulates the standard of slaughtering infrastructure which signatories must be working towards. No live inversions are permitted, and stunning should be done using inert gas, multi-phase systems or effective electrical stunning – as opposed to an electrical water bath which causes heightened animal suffering.

Finally, the pledge requires signatories to demonstrate their compliance via third-party auditing and annual public reporting on progress towards the commitment.

A number of Lidl’s European competitors have already signed up to the European Chicken Commitment, including Carrefour, Eroski, Aldi and Supermercados BM.

Different branches of the Lidl brand operate different supply chains, and Lidl GB confirmed to Food Matters Live that the farms involved in the European investigations are not suppliers to its stores. In a statement, the supermarket said: “At Lidl GB, we take the matter of animal welfare extremely seriously and have long been committed to increasing welfare and traceability standards throughout our supply chain.

“All of our chicken complies with nationally recognised third-party standards, including Red Tractor Assured, RSPCA certification and Soil Association Organic, whilst our free-range RSPCA Assured chicken meets and exceeds the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment [the UK equivalent to the ECC].”

While the Equalia campaign pertains to Europe, general welfare concerns surrounding British broiler chickens are common too. The Humane League filed for a judicial review against Defra’s failure to prevent the breeding of fast-growing broiler chickens in August 2021.

The judicial review had its initial hearing in March 2022, and in September 2022 a full hearing was deemed to be in the public interest by a judge. A final judgement on this case has yet to be released.

Consumers report that animal welfare is one of the biggest motivators when shopping – find out what other concerns rank highly in this episode of the Food Matters Live Podcast:

Food survey – biggest consumer concerns revealed

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