The firm has been given the green light to market its Ranger Gold and Ranger Classic breeds under the RSPCA Assured scheme – the only UK farm assurance scheme solely focused on farm animal welfare.
Ranger Gold has been accepted for free range, indoor and organic production, while the Ranger Classic has been accepted for indoor production under a collaborative agreement to improve specific traits.
Chickens accredited under RSPCA Assured can be free range or kept indoors with plenty of space and natural light. If indoors, they have a maximum stocking density of 30kg/square metre and use intermediate growth rate breeds with less than 45g/ day average growth compared to commercial strains’ 53-63g/day. The standards also have requirements which cover health, diet, environment and care.
Magnus Swalander, Aviagen general manager, said the two birds offered leading performance for meat production at the same time as delivering excellent health and welfare characteristics.
Mr Swalander explained the move was an important step in the development of Aviagen’s slow-growing product range in the UK, where there is an increasing consumer interest in the niche sector. Until now, Hubbard and Sasso have been among the market leaders.
“Aviagen’s long-term commitment is to provide a variety of products which offer excellent welfare and deliver improved economic and environmental sustainability in both conventional and niche segments of the broiler markets.
“We have been working closely with the RSPCA for several years and are delighted to further enhance our accreditation status for the products within our slower-growing portfolio.”
Sophie Elwes, RSPCA chicken welfare scientist, said the development should serve the wider industry by providing them with a greater choice of breeds that delivered high welfare and aligned with growing consumer interest.
“The Ranger Gold and Ranger Classic will benefit members of the RSPCA assured scheme, who can now choose to source these new breeds.”
Clive Brazier, RSPCA chief executive, welcomed the move to improve chicken welfare: “In being able to offer a greater choice of breeds to producers, we have the potential to bring many more birds into the RSPCA Assured Scheme and give consumers a wider choice.”
The move comes at a time when there is increasing interest in slower-growing broilers. In the United States, Perdue has announced it is raising a Redbro bird which takes 25% longer to mature than conventional breeds. The company has been testing different breeds for the past 18 months, after buying specialist firm Petaluma Poultry, which was renowned for producing slow-growth, pasture-raised and organic birds.