A new slow-growing chicken breed has been launched in the UK by broiler genetics company Aviagen, targeting the organic and free-range markets.

The Rowan Ranger has been available in the Netherlands since July 2013, under the Beter Leven (Better Life) quality assurance scheme.

But now it has also been assessed by the RSPCA and accepted for use under the society’s Freedom Food scheme .

“The Rowan Ranger has been developed in response to market demand for slower growing alternatives across Europe,” said a statement. “Aimed at free-range, slow growing and organic producers, the breed offers excellent meat yield and feed conversion rates.”

See also: Aviagen opens new hatchery

Aviagen has worked with processors, farmers and wider stakeholders to develop the breed.

Under the agreement with the RSPCA, Aviagen has also committed to continued welfare improvements in the Rowan Ranger, with regular meetings between the two parties to ensure on-going improvement in some specific welfare traits.

“We are delighted to have attained both Freedom Food and Beter Leven status. It isn’t an easy task, but it is a goal we set ourselves and we are continuing to invest a significant amount of money in our European trials facilities to support the development of these birds.”
Aviagen general manager Graeme Dear

Aviagen will roll the product out from early 2014 to customers who are interested in getting some first-hand experience with the Rowan Ranger.

“With increased demand from around Europe for slower growing varieties, the Rowan Ranger has been part of our breeding programme for some time,” said Aviagen general manager Graeme Dear.

“We have often been asked why we were not devoting effort in this area – we’ve now addressed that question.

“We are delighted to have attained both Freedom Food and Beter Leven status. It isn’t an easy task, but it is a goal we set ourselves and we are continuing to invest a significant amount of money in our European trials facilities to support the development of these birds.”

Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA chicken welfare scientist, said the development gave Freedom Food chicken producers a choice. “We hope to see this breed widely adopted by the industry.”