Grocery chain Delhaize has signed the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), joining Colruyt in a pledge to support better living conditions for the chickens sold in its stores.
Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt and its sister organisation OKay already announced last week their ban on the sale of broiler chickens (chickens bred and raised specifically for meat production) from 2026 onwards.
They were therefore the first Belgian retailers to switch to selling chickens raised following higher animal welfare criteria, based on the BCC.
The move was welcomed by one of Belgium’s animal welfare groups, Global Action in the Interest of Animals (GAIA), whose president called it “a game changer.”
“This commitment, which includes progressive provisions on animal welfare, will improve the lives of millions of chickens by 2026,” Michel Vandenbosch said in a statement.
“Of course I would have preferred chickens to have a better life earlier, but still this is a big step in the right direction.”
Vandenbosch noted that the Subway restaurant chain has also signed onto the BCC and its standards for poultry serviced in its various locations.
“So the change has started,” Vandenbosch said.
“Colruyt, Okay and Delhaize have started the transition in our country – it is now up to other retailers to commit to more chicken welfare.”
The BCC criteria, launched in 2017 by some 30 NGOs, aim to improve the welfare of chickens by mandating that they have natural light, more space to move around and clean litter in their nurseries.
Conditions for broiler chickens are often poor in order for poultry farmers to maximize profits by utilising all available space in nurseries, focusing on producing as many chickens as possible, as quickly as possible.
“Millions of broiler chickens are now lying in litter that is soiled with their droppings, and corrosive ammonia (from their own droppings) attacks their feet,” said Vandenbosch.
“Broiler chickens also suffer from abdominal obesity. Currently, fast-growing chickens reach their slaughter weight at 40 days. These are chicks that literally keep on growing.”
The BCC criteria call for poultry farmers to switch to slower-growing breeds.
Such production changes, along with infrastructure changes to nurseries to allow for more natural light, can be expensive, which is why the goal of 2026 has been set.
In the Netherlands, all supermarket chains have already decided not to sell any more broiler chickens by the end of 2023, according to VRT.
“Now that this transition has been started by these big names in the distribution world, we must continue and put pressure on other supermarket chains,” said Vandenbosch.
“I hope other brands will follow if we keep pushing for change.”