Knowing the story behind the RSPCA Approved logo can help consumers make more informed decisions when shopping for food in their supermarket of choice. And a big part of the RSPCA Approved story is the support of food retailers who help ensure higher welfare options are available to Australians.
Australian supermarket Woolworths began offering RSPCA Approved chicken in their range of Woolworths brand chicken products in 2014. In 2020, this extended to include products with chicken as an ingredient such as salads, ready-made meals, and sauces. This means that the supermarket chain sources from farms that raise their meat chickens in either an enriched barn or free-range environment that meets the detailed RSPCA Approved standards. Woolworths has also recently added Slow Raised onto their shelves – a slower-growing chicken with RSPCA Approved certification, as well as transitioning Macro chicken to now being sourced from farms with the RSPCA Approved certification.
What does it mean for a product to come from a farm with RSPCA Approved certification? It means that, whether in a barn environment or free range, the birds have more room to move, are able to perch, and have dry friable little to dust bathe in – among many other things. There are hundreds of requirements in the RSPCA Approved standard that producers have to meet to achieve and maintain RSPCA Approved certification – all backed up by frequent and rigorous assessments.
The new Slow Raised product on the shelf at Woolworths uses a specialty breed of meat chicken that grows at a slower pace. Once old enough and with full adult feathers, the birds can leave their barns during daylight hours and access a fenced, outdoor range with shaded areas and interesting vegetation to encourage exploring and foraging. This slower-growing meat chicken comes from farms with RSPCA Approved certification that meet a higher welfare standard both indoors and outdoors. These farms are assessed two to four times per year by specially trained Assessors to ensure conformance. And as a humane death is also very important, abattoirs are also assessed against the Standard annually.
Meat chickens reared for Macro Free Range Chicken have access to an outdoor area where they are free to roam during daylight hours once fully feathered, and when indoors have an enriched environment to encourage activity and natural behaviours. The Standard for meat chickens goes well above the legal standard and contains over 400 requirements that producers must meet for certification, including specific requirements for the outdoor environment on farms where meat chickens have access to an outdoor range.
By sourcing RSPCA Approved, Woolworths is demonstrating their commitment to providing their customers with chicken farmed to higher welfare standards. This means that meat chickens are raised to have lower stocking densities allowing space to move, perch, dust bathe and forage. They also live with good lighting that encourages them to be active with a period of complete darkness, ensuring they can rest properly each day every day. All of this results in meat chickens living a better quality of life.