Sainsbury’s has announced it is to become the first supermarket to launch a new range of chicken that has been reared in a natural woodland environment.
From next Wednesday (21 January), all of the supermarket’s Taste the Difference free range chicken will carry the Woodland brand, with 2p from every chicken sold donated to the Woodland Trust.
“This is all part of our commitment to improving chicken welfare while providing our customers with choice and good value,” Sainsbury’s chicken buyer David Kettle said.
Chicken reared in the Woodland free range system have 20% tree cover in a large outdoor paddock, with access to indoor space. The supermarket said there was evidence of a nine-fold reduction in feather pecking among woodland hens.
Sainsbury’s first developed its Woodland brand for its free range and SO organic eggs in 2004. The expansion of the scheme to include chicken meat is in response to increasing consumer demand for higher welfare products, he said. “It’s this type of assurance that consumers are still actively looking for, despite the credit crunch. They haven’t compromised on their values.”
Sales of higher welfare products (including Woodland, organic and Freedom Food) now account for almost half of Sainsbury’s’ product lines and further growth is anticipated. High profile campaigns by TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have helped sales of higher welfare chicken in particular – sales this January were about 20% higher than last year.
Devon poultry farmer Ian Wood welcomed news that his chicken would be sold under the brand, as he said it would help customers understand where chicken came from and give them peace of mind.
“It’s easy to see how trees make a huge difference. They love the dappled light under the trees, which is where they dust bathe and forage for insects. I can honestly say the trees make their lives happier.”