In a major step forward for the nation’s favourite meat, Red Tractor is backing a solution to make higher welfare chicken a more affordable choice for price-conscious shoppers.
Responding to the cost and sustainability challenges of moving to a higher welfare model for chicken production, the Red Tractor is the first and only UK food assurance scheme to include a pioneering slower growing breed of bird on the approved list for its farmer members.
Supply chain costs linked to meeting the Better Chicken Commitment – a set of standards supported by Red Tractor aimed at leading the food industry towards higher welfare practices – are often highlighted as a barrier to its widespread adoption, which can in turn make an unaffordable option for families on a budget.
Now, a higher welfare breed called Hubbard Redbro has been accepted by Red Tractor’s Enhanced Welfare chicken scheme following thorough research by NGOs, international industry experts and producers, in partnership with retailers and the foodservice sector.
Studies found that the Hubbard Redbro has equal higher welfare outcomes compared with other breeds used for indoor production. Crucially, research also showed that it has a lower feed conversion ratio compared with other slower growing breeds, meaning that it is a more economically viable and sustainable breed for farms of all sizes.
The Hubbard Redbro breed is more efficient in converting feed into live weight and meat. That means it needs less feed than other slower growing breeds to reach the finished weight and desired specification. If retailers and the supply chain passes these lower production costs on to shoppers, higher welfare chicken will become more affordable for all.
As a result, the breed boasts a significantly smaller carbon footprint because it helps cut the use of environmentally damaging feed, such as soy.
While the breed has been accepted by the Better Chicken Commitment, Red Tractor is the only UK assurance scheme to include the Hubbard Redbro on its approved breed list. Unlike other schemes, Red Tractor is the only food and farming scheme which guarantees that the chickens are always British.
“Chicken is the UK’s favourite meat. It’s adaptability and affordability to feed families up and down the country are some of the reasons why millions enjoy chicken every day,” says Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley.
“Over 95% of chicken farms in the UK are Red Tractor assured, and the core standards they are required to meet to gain this status go beyond both British and European legislation. High standards are important not just for the welfare of the birds, but everyone who enjoys eating chicken.
“Red Tractor is uniquely positioned as a valuable tool which safeguards the supply chain of retailers and foodservice brands, while reducing the audit burden for farmers.
“We have worked with NGOs, farmers, vets, scientists, animal welfare and food production experts to deliver a range of evolving standards for Red Tractor poultry farmers to meet consumer demand and expectations.
“By introducing the Hubbard Redbro bird into our approved breed list, we are able to help reduce costs in the supply chain, making this a more affordable higher welfare option for British families. The superior environmental credentials of this breed make for a further positive step forward for the poultry industry.”
Red Tractor’s Enhanced Welfare scheme
The Enhanced Welfare scheme – which was launched by Red Tractor in 2020 – already meets all the requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment. It uses slower growing chicken breeds and requires more space, natural light and enrichment.
As with other Red Tractor standards, it covers the schemes’ key principles on traceability, animal welfare and food safety. It delivers full supply chain assurance from parent stock, hatchery, catching, transport and slaughter.
Offering customers higher welfare chicken is an important step as part of restaurant chain Nando’s wider sustainability goals according to its UK and Ireland Product Director Judith Irons.
“We are conscious that the whole industry moving towards this by 2026 is not an easy task, but with the Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare standards, and their decision to include the Redbro Hubbard, is a huge step forward.
“We welcome this news from Red Tractor and look forward to working closely with them to make higher welfare chicken not only an option at Nando’s, but across the whole hospitality industry.”
Nando’s signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment in 2020 and has over 450 restaurants in the UK and Ireland.
“We are delighted that the Hubbard Redbro has been accepted under the Red Tractor Enhanced Welfare scheme,” says Dr Tracey Jones, Global Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming.
“This intermediate growth rate bird has gone through a rigorous approval process, aligned to the Better Chicken Commitment, and will undoubtedly help move the market for higher welfare chicken forwards.
“Having another commercially viable breed approved with good welfare outcomes is an important enabler for companies who have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment and wish to use Red Tractor as their third-party auditor for higher welfare indoor production.”
The Co-op’s Head of Agriculture Caroline Mason says the inclusion of the breed will deliver a bigger pool of breed choice and help those farms in the UK who want to invest in the high welfare journey, supporting those customers who want to purchase higher welfare poultry.
“Co-op has been part of the comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, science led review of this breed, as we appreciate the importance of developing a higher welfare chicken breed which not only continues to provide value to customers but supports our vital environmental commitments.”