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News 499 views update:Sep 23, 2008

UK breeders to sell slow-growing birds

Slower growing breeds of chickens are being introduced by the British poultry industry following consumers' demands for more welfare-friendly farming.

Guardian.co.uk states that companies behind the breeding stock that annually supplies 860 mln broilers for the UK table are bringing in the new breeds to take advantage of the burgeoning market, after years of producers being accused of raising hens in as short a time and as cheaply as possible.
The RSPCA, which certifies higher welfare standards through its Freedom Food scheme, believes the partial reversal of the faster farming method could lead to a doubling of hens labelled under its scheme, from 5% at the end of 2007 to 10% by the end of this year.
Increasing numbers of birds reared indoors now live up to 2 weeks longer than the 5-6 weeks allowed them in an industry where only 1 in 20 birds is raised through an outdoor system via free-range and organic flocks.
Typically, consumers pay an extra 60 p to £1 for an RSPCA scheme bird. The charity's scheme is the only "higher welfare" programme to demand that birds do not grow by more than 45 g a day. This rule was introduced in 2006, and last February toughened to cover a bird's genetic propensity for growth, following suspicions that some producers were simply feeding fast-growing birds less.
The RSPCA believes the arrival this year of the "new" chickens "tailored" to meet these demands will give added impetus to welfare improvements.
It is further reported that chicken breeder Aviagen says its newest breed of bird is "moving in that direction", and a bird developed by another large breeder, Hubbard, already meets the RSPCA requirements.
 
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