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09/01/2021

Natural Grocers commits to higher chicken standards

Leading organic grocery chain Natural Grocers signs on to the Better Chicken Commitment to raise the standards for its own brand chicken products.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Natural Grocers, a leading organic grocery chain, has announced it has signed on to the Better Chicken Commitment, a set of standards developed by animal welfare organizations to impact  broiler chicken welfare. 

Natural Grocers is one of the longest standing organic grocery chains in the country, and provides private label food and supplements alike to its shoppers.

The chain says that 90% of the chicken and chicken-containing products the company sells already meets or exceeds these new standards, and will work directly with the remaining 10% of vendors who currently do not meet all the standards to transition to meet all BCC requirements by 2026. Another popular chain grocer, Sprouts, made a similar commitment last month.

A coalition of animal welfare organizations including The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Compassion in World Farming and Mercy for Animals, banded together to develop the BCC, to ensure that welfare requirements for broiler chickens and the timelines to meet those requirements are the same for chicken farms, chicken processors, grocery retailers, and restaurants. 

“We applaud Natural Grocers for the way they’ve gone about thoughtfully and intentionally signing onto the Better Chicken Commitment,” stated Ben Williamson, US director of Compassion in World Farming. “For a few years now, Compassion in World Farming’s technical experts have been talking with Natural Grocers’ Standards team about the opportunities and challenges that come with committing to provide higher welfare chicken to their customers. It’s clear that animal welfare has always been a core value of Natural Grocers’ business and this commitment to broiler welfare further reinforces their industry leadership in driving improved standards.”

As an industry leader in pioneering animal welfare standards, regenerative agriculture, and the highest food quality standards, we are proud to announce that we have signed on to the Better Chicken Commitment,” said Natural Grocers. “Every year, millions of broiler chickens are raised in detrimental living conditions and suffer abuse due to an industrial farming model that is incentivized by a lack of system transparency. We have long fought against this system by requiring and partnering with those who maintain the highest animal welfare standards.”

The BCC standards required to be met by 2024 are:

  1. Maximum stocking density of 6.0 lbs./sq. foot and prohibit broiler cages.
  2. Provide birds enriched environments, including litter, lighting, and enrichment that meets Global Animal Partnership’s standards.
  3. Process chickens in a manner that avoids pre-stun handling and instead utilizes a multi-step controlled-atmosphere processing system (CAS) that induces an irreversible stun.*
  4. Demonstrate compliance with all standards via third-party auditing.

The BCC standard required to be met by 2026 is:

  1. Adopt breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes, either: Hubbard Black, JA757, 787, 957, or 987; Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic, or Ranger Gold; or others that meet the criteria of the RSPCA Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment Protocol or Global Animal Partnership (GAP). 

“We are excited to be part of the dedicated group that is working to improve the broiler chicken industry and leading the way for better transparency, a more humane world, and a better environment for animals and humans alike,” said Natural Grocers. “With the right course correction, animal agriculture has the power to improve the land, the lives of the people who raise crops and animals and provide high-quality food access to all. We’re thrilled to partner and champion the BCC and continue making progress to create a better food system.