Chicken broiler. World Animal Protection / Tracks Investigations

The Pecking Order 2023

No future for factory farming

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Report assessing European fast-food restaurants and food service companies on chicken welfare.

Iconic fast-food brands such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Starbucks are failing on chicken welfare. This is the conclusion of the second edition of The European Pecking Order report, which examines the chicken welfare standards of both Europe’s top international and local fast-food chains.

Over 7 billion broiler chickens are killed for consumption each year in the European Union2.

Every year, tens of billions of meat chickens are packed in factory farms and forced to live miserable lives, destined to die agonising deaths in slaughterhouses designed to cut costs rather than to kill painlessly. Chickens are sentient beings, which means they have the capacity to have emotions1, including pain and pleasure, and implies a level of conscious awareness.

To alleviate this massive suffering, companies in Europe should take responsibility and commit and implement the European Chicken Commitment (ECC), a set of minimum requirements that will improve the welfare of chickens considerably and cost-efficiently. These standards are not enough to provide a good life for chickens, but they ease the worst animal welfare problems and they are entirely feasible from a business point of view.

Implementing the ECC is the very least companies should do, and fortunately, many acknowledge this. Still, too many companies are lagging behind, and implementation of the commitment is thus far very slow, with only some limited progress being made ahead of the 2026 deadline.

- Dirk Jan Verdonk, Country Director, World Animal Protection, Netherlands
Low welfare chicken broiler farm. Credit: Tracks Investigations

The Pecking Order 2023

A united project by World Animal Protection, the Albert Schweitzer Stiftung, L214, Essere Animali and Humane Society International/Europe.

Read the full report

What do the scores mean?

The Pecking Order criteria are based on the ECC and developed in line with the latest animal welfare science.

The brands get points for what is in their policies, how quickly they plan to improve and how they are reporting on implementation progress in relation to each of the ECC requirements. Every brand is given a grade from 6 (Very Poor) up to 1 (Leading).

Fast-food brands need to take measurable action

The Pecking Order 2023 results showcase that companies are increasingly committed to improve meat chicken welfare. Since the previous report, Vapiano has committed to the full ECC criteria across their European operations. Buffalo Grill France and Quick France have also committed to the ECC, while Burger King Italy (through the Burger King franchise) and O’Tacos France have published a meat chicken welfare policy.

While this demonstrates a positive trend, companies are yet to demonstrate meaningful impact as there is still a lack of adequate reporting and transparency on the implementation of their commitments.

Verdonk: ‘Too many brands still think they can get away with greenwashing, or hide behind misguided excuses about climate footprints or affordability. They can't. For the animals in their care and for their customers who demand better, fast-food companies must commit to and implement the European Chicken Commitment.’

Welfare impacts of the ECC

Research has shown that implementing the ECC requirements improves the welfare of meat chickens significantly. A reduction in stocking density decreases the occurrence of lameness in a chicken’s gait, as well as a reduction of injuries to their feet and body [J.A.J. van der Eijk, et al. (2023)]. Using breeds that grow at a slower rate to the currently used conventional fast-growing breeds would substantially reduce the suffering and mortality rates of chickens on farms [L.M. Dixon (2020)]. Providing suitable environmental enrichment, such as hay bales, encourages movement and allows chickens to express their natural behaviours [J.A.J. van der Eijk, et al. (2023)].

Implementing the ECC is entirely feasible from a business point of view, and companies that use chickens in their supply chains must be held accountable for ensuring their wellbeing.



High welfare chicken farm. Credit: Valerie Kuypers

The Pecking Order 2023

Read the full report

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