Five of the major retailers have risen to the RSPCA challenge of increasing sales of Freedom Food chicken by 2010.

“Consumers have responded positively and everyone is talking about chicken. Higher welfare chicken is flying off shelves with reports of up to 50% increases in demand,” said Dorian Cross, Freedom Food’s field assessment officer at a recent meeting of the East Midlands Poultry Discussion Group.

The Freedom Food poultry meat flock stands at 49m birds, 4.5m up on 2007 and other sectors also saw growth (see table).

But the real beneficiaries were the birds themselves. In 2006, according to an RSPCA report on meat flocks, mortality rates were down 65%, there were 82% fewer hock burns and 46% fewer foot pad burns and the number of grade A birds were up 26%, he said.

The ripples of these improvements were reaching across to salmon and other species and to international breeders like Cobb and Sasso who had launched on the global market the Cobb-Sasso 150, a slow growing (45g/day maximum gain to 70 days), rustic brown female x white male meat strain.

FF table birds were now being grown on 6% of free-range meat units, turkeys on 3%, ducks on 23% and egg laying flocks on 53%, Among his targets for the next 15 years was the Freedom Food logo on ready-made products and further processed egg and on products from dairy cattle, pigs and salmon.