From the U.S. to the U.K., New Zealand to the Netherlands, poultry meat and egg businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of animal welfare.

This year’s Good Farm Animal Awards, organized by Compassion in World Farming to honor food businesses’ commitment to improve animal welfare standards, rewarded producers and retailers from across the globe and celebrated several firsts.

Poultry welfare marketing

Among those firsts was the presentation of the Best Marketing Award, which was extended this year to include foodservice companies, to McDonald’s U.K. operations for two initiatives: its television advertising around tree cover for laying hens and its Good to Know campaign.

“The Tree” advertisement was based on peer-reviewed research that the company helped to fund showing how increased tree cover on the range resulted in more hens ranging and lower mortality, reduced feather pecking, and better-quality eggs.

The company’s Good to Know campaign ran across numerous marketing channels for maximum impact including radio, social media, print, tray liners and via McDonald’s hub website promoting high higher welfare ingredients in its food.

In the southern hemisphere, McDonald’s operations in New Zealand and Australia were recognized for their commitment to only serve free-range whole eggs in their restaurants.

Welfare Innovation

The Best Innovation Award this year went to Plukon Food Group in the Netherlands for its Windstreek Stable – a broiler shed incorporating multiple features for improved welfare.

Windstreek also has strong sustainability elements that contribute to air and litter quality and low carbon dioxide emissions. Innovative brooders provide a warm, safe resting place for the chickens, and combined with the use of natural ventilation, the system uses 80 percent less energy

Plukon head of marketing and product development Gerda Zilstra commented: “As a main player in poultry production in Europe, we feel responsible for the well-being of animals in our business.

“Together with our clients and our enthusiastic farmers, we are in a position to make a difference and it is great to do so. Winning this prestigious award is a wonderful acknowledgement of the hard work that we have done so far and stimulation to continue with new initiatives.”

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Plukon Food Group in the Netherlands was the recipient of the Best Innovation Award for its Windstreek Stable, which incorporates numerous features for higher welfare.

Special recognition

A Special Recognition Award was given to US supermarket chain Whole Foods Market in conjunction with welfare organization Global Animal Partnership (GAP) for committing to using only slower-growing breeds and to better living condition for chickens.

In a market-leading move, GAP has committed to replace 100 percent of fast-growing chicken breeds over the next eight years for all levels of its 5-Step Rating program, and for all levels to meet or exceed the criteria for Compassion’s Good Chicken Award.

Whole Foods Market has committed to implementing the new chicken standard across all of its fresh and frozen chicken by 2024. The move is the first major, specific time-bound commitment to move from fast-growing chickens in the U.S.

Whole Foods Market meat buyer Theo Weening said: “Since 2011, Whole Foods Market has used Global Animal Partnerships’ 5-Step Rating Program to provide our customers with standards and information around how the animal was raised for the meat they buy. Supporting this additional commitment to improve chicken welfare is a step forward in continuing to provide our customers with products of the higher quality and flavor.”

Good Egg Awards

This year, 20 Good Egg Awards were awarded. For the first time, a Chilean producer, hen farmer Pablo Albarren, from Ecoterra, was the recipient of a Good Egg Award.

Also on the list of recipients was Clarence Court, part of the U.K.’s Stonegate, recognized for its free-to-fly quail egg production.

No legislation or industry standard exists for quail egg farming in the EU, and Clarence Court has taken the initiative to develop its own indoor barn system to provide a higher-welfare alternative to the cage systems commonly used across Europe.

Good Chicken Awards

Seven companies were recipients of Good Chicken Awards this year.

French retailer Schiever was recognized for its higher welfare products, including poultry meat from slower-growing breeds in enriched free-range systems.

Switzerland’s Mirgros retail chain was similarly recognized for its commitment to higher welfare indoor broiler production introducing strict Swiss animal welfare standards to all Migros chicken meat producers outside Switzerland.

Tracey Jones, director of food business at Compassion, said: “Our poultry award winners demonstrate a real step change in attitudes and approach towards welfare is taking place.”