Today, all links in the poultry chain, from farmers to supermarkets, reached an agreement to improve animal welfare and living conditions for all regular chickens that are sold in Dutch supermarkets.
This means that Albert Heijn will offer customers more animal-friendly chicken meat. The agreement seeks to find a balance between sustainability, people, animals and the environment, and to make it possible for chickens to live a better life.
CEO Albert Heijn Sander van der Laan commented: "Albert Heijn has already earned its stripes when it comes to animal welfare and we can be rightly proud of these achievements. I am even more proud of that fact that, as a result of this agreement, we can work with the entire chain to ensure that all regular chickens that are sold in Dutch supermarkets have had a better life."
Largest retailer of free-range and organic chicken
There have been numerous references to Albert Heijn over the past year on the radio, on television, in the newspapers and on the internet. Animal rights organization Wakker Dier referred to Albert Heijn in a full-page advertisement, as “one of the largest ‘plofkip’ (artificially fattened chicken) retailers in the Netherlands.” In fact, Albert Heijn is the largest free-range and organic chicken retailer in the Netherlands: of all the free-range and organic chicken meat sold in the Netherlands, 75% is sold via Albert Heijn.
Room for improvement
Despite this, Albert Heijn and other supermarkets believed there was room for improvement. The majority of all the regular chicken produced in the Netherlands is exported. Despite the fact that Albert Heijn has many stores in the Netherlands, their impact is therefore somewhat limited in this area. For this reason, we joined forces with all other parties in the chain, from farmers to supermarkets, and engaged in talks on the issue. As a result of these discussions, the agreement that will guarantee better chicken for all customers was signed.
Step-by-step towards a better life
The criteria in the agreement will be carried out in phases. The first step is to ensure that chickens have more space. The second step is that a different breed of chicken (one that is reared more slowly) will be farmed as of 2015, and that chickens will only be given food that contains responsibly sourced soy. As a result, living conditions for all regular chickens sold in Dutch supermarkets will improve significantly. All supermarkets have committed to the short- and long-term steps in the agreement and will implement all the measures by 2020 at the latest.
“Better Life” star
The measures that are being taken, however, are not sufficient for the meat to hold one “Beter Leven” (better life) star (out of a possible three) from the Dierenbescherming (Dutch animal welfare society). The Beter Leven star is applied to meat when chickens have had access to covered, open, outdoor space from their stalls. In order to make this possible, poultry farmers must make substantial modifications to their stalls and go through a variety of permit procedures. This is both time-consuming and costly and is therefore difficult to implement at the moment. In addition, the fact that the majority of all of the regular chicken produced in the Netherlands is exported, means that it is not only Dutch supermarkets that will need to address this issue if the goal is to be achieved.
Albert Heijn is proud of the result that has been achieved for animal welfare in relation to regular chickens so far, but will continue to seek out measures that can be taken to further raise levels of sustainability.