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Meaningless labels on chicken meat influencing consumers

14 Dec 23

Meaningless labels on chicken meat influencing consumers

Polling of 1,500 New Zealanders finds labels used by Tegel, Ingham’s and other chicken corporations lead Kiwis to believe their animal welfare or health standards are higher than others by using  the terms "Cage Free", “Barn Raised” and "No Added Hormones".

In reality, no chickens bred for meat in New Zealand are ever caged, they are always in barns, and no hormones are added. These meaningless labels may as well say “No point of difference”, says Animals Aotearoa, a charity which commissioned the survey.


Chicken welfare important to shoppers

The research finds people are concerned with how chickens are treated.

Two-thirds of those polled said the welfare of the chickens was important to them when buying meat, (only 7% disagreed).

The data revealed many people think they are avoiding meat from chickens reared on factory farms, but Animals Aotearoa says this is not the case.

It says the survey shows many shoppers believe they are buying from farmers who use higher welfare methods than baseline, have healthier chickens, or both. In reality, many products with these labels actually represent the bare minimum of standards.

Animals Aotearoa is gathering signatures in support of a complaint to the Commerce Commission to investigate whether these labels are misleading consumers and could be a breach of the Fair Trading Act.

Executive Director Marianne Macdonald says, “The current system where corporates are writing almost whatever they like on chicken labels makes it near impossible for caring consumers to make informed choices in line with their values and expectations.”

Independent labelling rules support

The polling showed overwhelming support, 78%, for independent, labelling rules to make welfare claims actually meaningful. Currently, the definitions of Free Range labelling are set out by the poultry industry itself.  

77% agreed they would like their supermarket to provide chicken meat that meets the higher animal welfare standards of the Better Chicken Commitment, which results in healthier chickens.

The global policy initiative of the Better Chicken Commitment is led in New Zealand by Animals Aotearoa and lays out strict, science-based welfare standards for chickens bred for meat; standards which exceed those currently set by the New Zealand government.

Animals Aotearoa says the latest animal welfare science is clear, the use of healthier chicken breeds that grow more naturally, means chickens have better lives. As well as requiring healthier breeds, the BCC provides birds with environmental enrichments including more space, natural light and perches to rest on.

Download a poll summary:

A Newsroom story on the issue and survey is here: