Within the past several years, for the most part, when a business that sells poultry products made an announcement that includes the company’s plans involving broiler welfare, it has meant that the company is requiring all of its broiler suppliers to comply with Global Animal Partnership (GAP) or Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) standards.

There have been a few exceptions, and now there is one more.

Supermarket chain Food Lion and its parent company Ahold Delhaize last week announced new sustainability policies for genetically modified food (GMOs) and farm animal welfare.

In a press release, Food Lion made the following comments regarding broiler chicken welfare: “Food Lion recognizes concerns related to growth size and rate and stocking density of chickens raised for meat production and is actively speaking with suppliers, stakeholders and animal welfare experts to develop a set of product standards related to breed, stocking density and enriched environments and examining science-based studies to make updates to the animal welfare policy.”

The company further said it will begin working toward compliance with private brand suppliers and work with all suppliers to improve compliance throughout the total assortment of whole or single ingredient products by 2025.

I find it interesting that Food Lion wants to address broiler welfare, but has not signed on with GAP or RSPCA. Or at least it has not announced that it has done so.

You might remember that McDonald’s announced a broiler welfare policy in 2017, but rather than to just join in on the GAP/RSPCA bandwagon, it said it would be establishing a global, multi-stakeholder Advisory Council focused on chicken sustainability, with participation from academics and scientists, suppliers and industry experts, animal welfare and environmental advocates to support our continued journey on chicken sustainability, inclusive of health and welfare.

The animal activist groups apparently didn’t like that approach, and even launched a campaign to paint McDonald’s as a company that doesn’t care about broiler welfare.

For whatever reasons, GAP and RSPCA commitments have slowed down in recent months, and particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A broiler welfare commitment tracker webpage, brought to WATT Global Media’s attention by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) shows only one company has made such a commitment since March: Frisch’s Big Boy. Incidentally, the Big Boy announcement was made on July 30, the same day the Food Lion press release was issued.

While it remains to be seen whether Food Lion and Ahold Delhaize will go along with GAP or RSPCA standards, or do like McDonald’s and follow its own path, we may soon know. The press release stated that Ahold Delhaize USA companies will begin annual reporting on the areas covered by the animal welfare policy beginning in 2021.