M&S will only be selling 100% slower-reared and RSPCA Assured fresh chicken across its UK stores, becoming the first national retailer to do so.

M&S has committed to deliver trusted value for customers – great value products that never compromise on quality, sourcing or animal welfare standards.

A study conducted by YouGov on behalf of M&S highlighted that 81% of UK adults think that it is important that food retailers focus on the better treatment of farm animals*.

In line with the Better Chicken Commitment, the retailer has moved to a Hubbard breed which will also benefit from higher welfare standards.

These include a multigrain diet, which has been designed to support slower natural growth and muscle development, whilst also ensuring the best flavour for customers. As the birds are slower reared they will be more resilient and robust, particularly to higher temperatures.

Birds will also have 20% more space alongside an enhanced environment, with more pecking aids and perches to encourage natural behaviours.

The significant investment builds on M&S’ existing leading animal welfare standards. The retailer offers more RSPCA Assured products than any other retailer, was the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment and has been in tier one of the Compassion in World Farming annual Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare since 2013.

Andrew Clappen, M&S Food Technical Director, said: “At M&S we have a long history of driving animal welfare standards across the industry. This year marked 25 years since we first introduced 100% free range whole eggs and we were the first retailer to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment. When it comes to chicken, we want to keep raising the bar to improve welfare – it’s something we know our customers care deeply about and we do too.”

“Improving animal welfare is an important part of our trusted value commitment – we are introducing slower-reared, higher-welfare chicken offering better quality and better flavour for our customers.”

We first introduced our Oakham Gold chicken in 2020 and customers have responded well as they have seen the extra benefits of better welfare and multigrain diet on flavour.

Mike Baker, CEO of RSPCA Assured, said: M&S’s move to offer 100% slower-reared, RSPCA Assured fresh chicken is the biggest positive change to chicken farming in a generation. It’s a landmark achievement for animal welfare, which we hope will set a leading example for other retailers.”

“The positive impact this will have on M&S’ chickens is enormous, allowing these alert and curious birds more comfort and freedom to enjoy their natural behaviours.”

“We’re really proud to partner with M&S in extending their commitment to higher welfare farming, with the conversion of all of their fresh chicken to RSPCA Assured. M&S already have the widest range of RSPCA Assured products of any UK retailer. This move further extends that leading position, and means they can now assure their customers that they are buying fresh chicken reared to the RSPCA’s higher welfare standards throughout their entire range.”

Dr Tracey Jones, Global Director of Food Business at Compassion in World Farming, said: “We applaud M&S for leading the UK retail sector, having successfully transitioned their entire fresh chicken supply to the criteria of the Better Chicken Commitment.”

“The roll out of their ‘Oakham Gold’ fresh chicken is testament to their ongoing commitment to improve the lives of the chickens in their supply, by using more robust breeds that lead longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives.”

“Making higher welfare chicken the baseline standard for consumers is a priority for Compassion and we urge all retailers to follow their lead, so that we can drive the market towards better chicken for all.”

Martin Sweetland, M&S Oakham Gold farmer, said: “I’m really enjoying farming the M&S Oakham Gold chickens – they are much more inquisitive than other breeds, have more room to dust bath, perch and play with pecking objectives. Seeing them exhibit natural behaviours makes me proud to farm these birds and I believe this translates into a more tasty eating bird – this is a real game changer and it makes me proud to be an Oakham Gold farmer”

With value front of mind for customers, M&S has locked the prices of over 100 products in its Remarksable value range, including chicken wings (750g -£1.30), chicken drumsticks (600g – £1.25) and chicken legs (600g – £1.20). All slower-reared and RSPCA Assured.

Customers can find out more about slower-reared chicken in a special episode of M&S’ Fresh Market Update campaign, airing across ITV and Channel 4 from 3 October. Fresh Market Update showcases the lengths British farmers and growers go to deliver customers’ favourite products.