Broiler welfare standards address consumer misconceptions

The National Chicken Council wants consumers to know four guarantees about how the chicken they eat is raised.

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Yurii Bukhanovskyi, Bigstock
Yurii Bukhanovskyi, Bigstock

The National Chicken Council (NCC) wants consumers to know four guarantees about how the chicken they eat is raised.

On September 6, the Washington-based trade association announced the formation of industry-wide broiler standards it calls “Chicken Guarantees.” A press release said the promises are being made to combat consumer misconceptions about how broilers are raised.

The four promises are:

1. Raised cage-free: The majority of broilers are raised in the U.S. live indoors with free access to food and water. A recent consumer poultry study found that 70 percent of U.S. consumers believe broilers are raised in cages. 

2. Free of added hormones and steroids: The use of hormones and steroids in poultry is banned by U.S. law, dating back to the 1950s. The same consumer study found that 76 percent of consumers believe hormones and steroids are present in most chicken meat.

3. Monitored by licensed veterinarians: Licensed veterinarians, with an obligation to protect the animals’ health and welfare, provide care for every broiler flock.

4. Raised by farmers trained in animal welfare: Poultry growers are trained in handling and caring for chickens to provide a healthy, low-stress environment. If the farmers or their workers mistreat the animals, they will be subject to disciplinary action including contract termination and prosecution.

The NCC is publishing the Chicken Guarantees on a consumer-facing website as part of its larger, Chicken Check-in program. The website features infographics about the four principles as well as a video illustrating the concepts and links to numerous articles further explaining how chickens are raised.

In an email, NCC spokesman Tom Super said the organization is working with its colleagues in the retail and food service industries to spread the word about the guarantees. It plans for both earned and paid media outreach campaigns and will rely heavily on social media to directly contact consumers. It plans on using its new digital content and social media channels to promote the promises along with infographics, images and videos meant to be shared on social media.

In a statement, Dr. Ashley Peterson, the NCC’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs said the program is motivated by the prevalence of mistaken beliefs among the majority of consumers – some of which are inspired by “negatives on labeling” trumpeting no preservatives, no hormones, no additives, no antibiotics, etc. used in raising the bird.

“The Chicken Guarantees are a simple set of baseline welfare standards that people can expect and understand when they buy and eat any chicken,” Peterson said. “We support choices in the meat case for consumers, but the data clearly show that with so many options, consumers can become confused.

“We believe that by providing our consumers with facts about chicken care, their choices can become easier.  No matter what chicken they choose to buy and feed their families, they can be assured that their chicken was well cared-for.”

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