A Better Life from Day One: New Label Could Drive Big Change for Chickens

January 31, 2023

Chickens in a pasture

Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.), one of the United States’ largest farm animal welfare certification programs, has released a new label that can be found on product packaging, empowering shoppers to shift the chicken industry toward more compassionate practices. Three chicken brands have met the new label requirements that ensure a higher welfare breed of chicken.

This is groundbreaking because, today, 98% of chickens raised for meat in America are a rapid-growing and disproportionately sized breed known as the Cornish Cross, which reach market weight just 6-7 weeks after hatching. These chickens weigh twice as much as chickens 50 years ago, due to decades of selective breeding programs by the meat industry to push chickens to grow as large and quickly as possible. 

This “efficiency” comes with a devastating cost for these birds, who are denied basic considerations like the ability and agility to walk more than a few steps at a time. Researchers from the University of Arkansas offered the analogy that if humans grew at a similar rate to broiler chickens, then a seven-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months!

Despite scientific consensus that chickens are directly impacted by their genetics and evidence of widespread suffering on factory farms, it has been difficult for consumers and food companies to identify and source alternative breeds. 

G.A.P addressed this crisis head on with a thorough and thoughtful process involving independent research trials conducted at the University of Guelph, and by receiving input from scientists, animal advocates, breeding companies and chicken producers to develop an initial list of approved breeds and a protocol by which to test others.

Now G.A.P. has released a new label that will empower shoppers to shift the chicken industry toward more compassionate practices.

G.A.P.’s new Better Chicken Project certified label builds on its existing 5-Step® chicken welfare standards to show shoppers which chicken producers and food brands are using higher-welfare chicken breeds. So far, 11 breeds qualify for the Better Chicken Project label because they score well on chicken-welfare criteria, such as ability to perch or use enrichments, walking ability, foot and leg health, as well as muscle integrity. 

Two chicken brands are leading the way: Mary’s Chickens and LaBelle Patrimoine Heritage Chicken have earned G.A.P.’s BCP label and are recognized on our ASPCA Shop With Your Heart Grocery List

Further, for the over 200 food businesses that have adopted the Better Chicken Commitment, G.A.P. offers a pathway to achieve their goals and gain recognition in the marketplace for both higher-welfare chicken breeds and improved housing conditions.

Labelle chicken in a pasture

The bottom line for animals

Genetics in chicken production largely determine an animal’s quality of life. The ASPCA recommends that farmers and food brands seek G.A.P. certification, which uses the third-party auditor EarthClaims LLC, to demonstrate improved on-farm conditions for animals. Pairing G.A.P.’s 5-Step certification with the new Better Chicken Project label sets the birds up for success with good genes from day one. 

If you buy chicken products for your household, you can support this animal welfare initiative by seeking out higher-welfare products whenever you can. If you want to encourage companies to do better for animals, politely reach out to share this information. Join our Factory Farming Task Force for handy tips and resources on how to create a kinder food system. You can also help us spread the word by sharing this post with a friend or on social media.