Sainsbury’s has launched a new range of higher welfare chicken, to satisfy the rise in consumer demand, despite the current credit crunch.

The new range of Freedom Food labelled chicken has been reared on farms to strict RSPCA welfare standards.

Sales of higher welfare chicken have risen 60% since January when TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched campaigns to raise public awareness of animal welfare.

The supermarket has more than doubled its range recently to meet demand from consumers.

According to YouGov research commissioned by Sainsbury’s, nearly two out of five shoppers said that they are actively looking for food which doesn’t compromise on how it is sourced and is good for the environment.

Sainsbury’s hopes to sell an estimated £7.5m British Freedom Food assured chickens per year and aims to be the biggest retailer of higher welfare chicken in the UK.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “Sainsbury’s commitment to upgrade the minimum welfare standards of all their fresh chicken to the RSPCA welfare standards over the coming years will improve the lives of millions of British chickens, and this new initiative is clearly the first major step along that road. I welcome it wholeheartedly.”

Judith Batchelar director of Sainsbury’s brand said: “When we met Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall last year we said that Sainsbury’s would do everything it could to improve chicken welfare while providing our customers with choice and good value. This is why we have launched a new range of chicken which has been reared to standards set by the RSPCA and inspected by Freedom Food.”

RSPCA Freedom Food chickens are a slow growing breed and during their lives, enjoy more space and stimulation, with straw bales, perches and bright objects to peck at to encourage natural behaviour.