Animal activist groups are running a coordinated campaign demanding restaurants and retailers pledge to implement the so-called Better Chicken Commitment by 2024. There are several problems with the Commitment:
- Few chicken producers use these standards;
- Prices are significantly higher than conventionally raised poultry;
- The hidden environmental impact of the Commitment is massive.
The Commitment uses guidelines created by an activist-influenced niche certification program. The “standards” of this program may change over time. Companies that make the pledge risk facing even more unfeasible and costly demands.
Animal Welfare Impact of Change: Likely Negative
An analysis performed by Elanco and EMI Analytics determined broad adoption of the Better Chicken Commitment would have negative animal welfare and environmental consequences. On the animal welfare side, an estimated 72.4 million more birds would perish on the farm every year.
Better Chicken Commitment standards are based on a niche certification program, called Global Animal Partnership, that has several tiers. One poultry producer in Georgia provides a cautionary tale of using this certification program.
The producer raises “free-range” chickens, which has attracted predators. The producer reported losing 160,000 chickens to predators, and sought $2.2 million in livestock indemnity from the USDA. Being torn apart by predators is an inhumane outcome of this system.
Despite these massive losses, the farm claims to be “sustainable.” Along with being vulnerable to predators, free-range animals are exposed to more disease vectors, such as avian influenza carried by wild birds.
For more information, see our profile of the Global Animal Partnership. Since “Better Chicken” standards are based on GAP, it is possible that these standards will shift over time to require free-range.
Environmental Impact of Change: Negative
The Better Chicken Commitment would have massive negative environmental impacts.
If just one-third of poultry production converted to Commitment guidelines, nearly 1.5 billion more chickens would need to be raised to produce the same amount of meat. These 1.5 billion chickens would require water and feed, which in turn would require water and land to grow, and additional transportation of feed and meat would be needed. And these 1.5 billion chickens would produce additional waste that would need to be managed.
In all, 7.6 million acres–an area the size of Maryland–would be needed if the Better Chicken Commitment is adopted at scale. An additional 670,000 tractor trailers would be needed (along with fuel), and the additional birds would produce 28.5 billion pounds of manure.