New Lidl labelling scheme still hides how chickens are reared

In the UK a new supermarket scheme intended to tell shoppers the conditions under which chickens are reared does not achieve its goal. The scheme appears to pull the wool over the eyes of shoppers which is the opposite to the intention of the scheme.

This article is about product labelling introduced yesterday by the supermarket Lidl in the UK. The labels are meant to provide shoppers with enough information to make an informed choice about their purchase. They should pay more for free range or organic birds with access to the outside and less for chickens raised under suboptimal indoor conditions.

Lidl chicken labelling scheme.
Lidl chicken labelling scheme pulls the wool over shoppers’ eyes.

Lidl has introduced five different labels representing the various degrees under which chickens are raised (see above). The poorest conditions are indoor chickens from foreign farms. These chickens may be raised in huge windowless sheds with nothing in the environment which would suit a chicken and under which they might attack each other.

This environmental situation is described as “indoor-birds are reared outside the UK to legal housing requirements” on the label. The label itself shows one or two birds when in reality a shed is often crammed with 10,000 to 20,000 birds.

Peter Sevenson for Compassion in World Farming said that he welcomed the initiative but that the company had shied away from telling consumers the truth.

“Factory farmed chickens are labelled ‘indoor’ – a term such as ‘intensive indoor would have given consumers a much more accurate picture. And they describe their ‘British indoor chickens as living in ‘comfortable housing while in reality they are crammed in at 17 chickens per square metre.”

If the scheme was successful Lidl said that they would consider using it for other meat products. Comment: it appears to be unsuccessful!

The senior scientific officer for farm animals at the RSPCA, Sophie Elwes said:

“We hope it will lead to more people buying higher welfare options in the same way that sales of cage-free eggs increased when they were labelled.”

Comment: it appears that the labels need to be more honest, more direct and more informative if customers are going to genuinely make an informed choice and drive up the welfare standards of farm reared chickens.

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