Increasingly positive news in the world of chickens raised for meat as more big corporations pledge their support to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC).

Azzurri has become the first restaurant group in Europe to commit to the new welfare standards. The Zizzi and ASK ITALIAN owner has pledged to only serve higher welfare chicken by 2026.

The Better Chicken Commitment is a new set of standards for improving the welfare of chickens farmed for meat devised by a group of leading animal protection organisations including The Humane League, Compassion in World Farming, and the RSPCA.

Vicky Bond, Managing Director of The Humane League UK, said: “We commend Azzurri Group for taking the lead on this issue, becoming the first restaurant to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment. These meaningful changes are set to benefit the lives of millions of chickens, and we encourage other companies who care about the welfare of animals in their supply chains to follow suit.”

Chickens farmed for meat, called ‘broiler’ chickens, account for 95% of all land animals farmed in the UK. They have been selectively bred over many decades to prioritise fast growth and big breast muscles. Consequently, chickens now grow so big, so fast, their bodies can’t keep up. Their legs can’t cope with the weight of their upper bodies, so they suffer from leg pain and lameness. Their hearts are under pressure, and they often die prematurely from heart disease. 95% of broiler chickens in the UK are raised on standard, intensive farms.

The progressive new standards laid out in the BCC eliminate the worst health issues relating to fast growth, reduce overcrowding, and provide a better living environment for chickens.

There has been a wave of corporate commitments to improve broiler chicken welfare recently. Elior group, Unilever, and Marks & Spencers have released policies applying to the EU, which are set to benefit millions of animals in their supply chains. This month, one of the biggest food companies in the world, Nestlé, committed to these standards globally.

Within four hours of The Humane League asking Pret A Manger to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment, the company did so. The company already met five of the six criteria in these standards but had continued to use breeds of chicken which grow so large so quickly that their bodies can't keep up, resulting in many suffering from health problems.

Providing chickens with enrichments and improvements is meaningless until they change the breed to breeds with better welfare, because their suffering is such that they can't make use of them or appreciate them.

This week, 2 Sisters Food Group pledged to supply chicken which meets the criteria of the ask to any company which demands it, after dialogue with The Humane League.

Over the past few years, the vast majority of the UK food industry has committed to eradicating cages for laying hens in their supply chains. Now, it is expected a similar movement to reduce suffering will happen for broiler chickens.