IKEA chicken welfare move falls flat with CIWF

The flat pack furniture retailer's abandonment of its Good Chicken Award, despite Compassion in World Farming supplying ongoing instructions, has been described as extremely disappointing.

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StockPhoto30, Bigstock
StockPhoto30, Bigstock

IKEA’s decision to withdraw its commitment to the Good Chicken Award in nine of the 11 countries where the company holds it and follow its own “better program,” has been described by the award’s organizers, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), as “extremely disappointing.”

You may think that a retailer primarily concerned with home furnishings would have little influence on farm animal welfare. But with more than 300 outlets around the world, IKEA restaurants, canteens and markets recorded sales of EUR1.8 billion (US$2.1 billion) in financial year 2017, so its sourcing policies certainly have a significant impact on how poultry and livestock are raised.

Not built in a day, despite instructions

IKEA started to work with CIWF back in 2008, with development of a cage-free egg policy eventually leading to the group looking to source higher welfare chicken for their European businesses.

CIWF gives its awards on a five-year commitment period which, it says, “allows for transitions in what can often be long and complicated supply chains”. Where transition takes longer, it continues to work with companies to progress their road map, but where broiler welfare and CIWF are concerned, the association with IKEA appears to have largely come to an end.

CIWF identified a lack of progress on IKEA’s broiler welfare commitments back in 2014, and worked with the company, providing technical support, including on farm visits and training, but IKEA, it would seem, has now decided to largely abandon its broiler welfare co-operation with CIWF and go its own way.

Instead, IKEA will publicly launch in 2018 what it is calling its Better Programs, along with transport and slaughter standards with road maps and milestones.

Good or better?

These programs have been under assembly for several years to address key areas where the company believes it can achieve the biggest impact, and its aim is to have these programs implemented for all species by 2015.

The programs consist of specific “better” principles based on current science, expert opinion, and supplier feedback, IKEA says. The company argues that the programs will elevate its current sourcing criteria and provide a research agent for on-farm trials to drive future innovation and continuous improvement.

The roll-out is initially focusing on broilers, with the Better Chicken Program having key principles including: better space, better lighting, better behavior, better health and better management.

But CIWF is not convinced by this change in direction, arguing that the company has taken a “retrograde step,” adding that the Better Chicken Program is likely to fall short of the commitments made under the Good Chicken Award. The change, it says, is at odds with the growing movement for higher welfare chicken production both in the European Union and United States.

IKEA’s adherence to the Good Egg Award is thought to be unaffected by its decision on broiler welfare.

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