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Coles to Sell Only RSPCA Approved Chicken

06 January 2014

AUSTRALIA - Australian national supermarket chain Coles is to sell to 100 per cent of its fresh chicken RSPCA Approved.

However, the Victorian Farmers Federation has raised concern over the effect it may have on chicken farmers' income.

Coles Chief Operating Officer, John Durkan, said the move to RSPCA Approved chicken was the latest in a series of quality improvements that come at no added cost to customers.

“Coles has listened carefully to what customers are telling us about animal welfare and the quality of the food they feed their families. We’ve taken this feedback to our farmers and growers and worked with them to deliver a better product without adding to the cost of the weekly shop," he said.

“We started with no added hormones beef nearly three years ago and then followed with cage-free Coles Brand eggs; sow stall-free fresh pork and sustainable sea food. And now we have gone further and made all our Coles brand fresh chicken – including bbq chickens from the deli – RSPCA Approved, again at no extra cost to customers."

However, the Victorian Farmers Federation has raised concern over the move by Coles saying it must guarantee it will not force chicken farmers’ incomes “down down”.

“Coles is crowing that the new RSPCA standard won’t cost consumers more,” Victorian Farmers Federation Chicken Meat president Allan Bullen said.

“But I can tell you it will cost growers and processors dearly. The RSPCA standard means more space for birds, installing perches, more lighting, deeper litter and higher audit, labour and transport costs.”

“If we are to implement the RSPCA standards it will increase our chicken farmers growing cost by 25 per cent.”

Coles Chief Operating Officer John Durkan said today the move to the RSPCA standard came “at no added cost to customers”.

“If that’s the case then Mr Durkan must guarantee that chicken farmers and processors will not bear the cost,” Mr Bullen said.

“So, my question to Mr Durkan is: ‘Will you give us an iron-clad guarantee that Coles absorbs the extra cost of implementing the RSPCA standard?

“The reality is we’re getting paid 83 cents a bird, delivered to Coles processors. Yet Coles is selling its roasted chickens at A$10 a bird – Who’s making the margin, because the farmers aren’t.

“If consumers want these RSPCA standards, then surely they’re prepared to pay an extra 10 cents a kilo to cover growers’ costs. It’s a very small price to pay.

Mr Bullen said Coles and its rival Woolworths couldn’t just keep squeezing farmers returns to boost their sales, shareholder returns and bonuses.

“Supermarkets are refusing to recognise these extra costs and just want to use animal welfare as a marketing tool.

“The other reality is that chicken meat growers already have some the highest animal welfare standards in the world,” Mr Bullen said.

Heather Neil, Chief Executive of RSPCA Australia said: “The RSPCA is proud to be working with Coles and its suppliers to make the switch to sourcing only RSPCA Approved chicken under its own brand of fresh chicken. The lives of millions of meat chickens will be improved.

“It’s an exciting time for Australian consumers, who over the years have been demanding more and more high welfare food in a growing trend which is directly benefiting the welfare of farm animals.”

Coles has been selling RSPCA Approved chicken breasts, wings, drumsticks, thigh fillets and whole chickens since 2011. The pre-packed range initially went on sale in Victorian stores only but was quickly introduced to other States as the products became more popular with customers. From today all Coles brand fresh chicken including loose portions from the deli and bbq chickens will be RSPCA Approved.

Coles RSPCA Approved chickens are raised in barns farmed to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards which allow birds to freely exhibit natural behaviours such as perching, scratching and foraging. RSPCA assessors visit these farms at least four times in the first 12 months and twice a year in following years to ensure the RSPCA's higher welfare standards are maintained.

Coles will source RSPCA Approved fresh chicken from 170 farms across Australia, working with suppliers such as Hazeldenes, Cordina Farms, Baiada, Nichols Poultry and Golden Cockerel.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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