In a bid to open up the RSPCA Assured scheme to more producers - and help many millions more birds benefit from overall higher welfare standards - we are allowing a three-year derogation for indoor meat chicken producers, to carry out one thin per flock.
This isn’t a decision we’ve taken lightly and the three-year period allows us to work with more producers to transition to a position of no thinning - to meet the RSPCA standard for no thinning, introduced in 2016.
The reason for this is that we’re aware the majority of producers aren’t currently meeting this standard, and as such there aren’t many RSPCA Assured certified indoor chicken producers. This means that many millions of chickens are being reared outside of the RSPCA Assured scheme to potentially lower welfare standards.
We understand, from talking to many retailers, that not allowing thinning makes RSPCA Assured indoor chicken unaffordable for many consumers.
Therefore, on balance, we believe the welfare benefits of temporarily allowing one thin per flock - where birds will benefit from hundreds of RSPCA welfare standards - outweigh the negatives of not allowing it - and birds being reared outside of the RSPCA Assured scheme to potentially lower standards.
Royal Agricultural University’s Professor, David Main - and RSPCA Assured Board Member - said: “The temporary derogation for thinning is a necessary step that will help improve the lives of millions of chickens in the UK, and encourage positive global changes towards higher welfare.”
Chickens farmed under RSPCA Assured benefit from hundreds of higher welfare standards which cover their entire lives. Fast-growing breeds are not allowed and birds must be reared to a maximum stocking density of 30kg/m2, which is well below the industry standard.