Nine of the world’s biggest fast food chains have been rated ‘very poor’ or ‘failing’ on the welfare of chickens according to a global study by World Animal Protection Agency (WAP).

WAP found that companies including KFC, McDonald’s, Nando’s and Domino’s are subjecting billions of chickens to unnecessary suffering.

WAP assessed nine companies – also including Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Subway and assessed them against three criteria. The first, policies looked at what the company has about protecting chicken welfare. Targets assesses if the company says it will take action to improve chickens’ lives. Reporting checked how the company is reporting its progress to improve chicken welfare.

According to the report, about 40 billion meat chickens are raised in factory farms, with many living in pain and suffering conditions including lameness, skin diseases and heart and lung strain each year. Two thirds of these chickens are genetically selected to develop so fast that their legs cannot bear their weight.

“The Pecking Order” report says, there are six common problems: being bred to grow too quickly; overcrowding; cages that severely restrict movement; alien, unhealthy environments; unnatural lighting and squalid conditions.

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By GlobalData

WAP said the companies were chosen for the investigation because they are the ‘big players’ in the industry and have the power and responsibility to improve the lives of chickens every year.

None of the companies were rated higher than poor, with Domino’s failing and Burger King, Starbucks and Subway rating poor.

World Animal Protection UK farming campaigns manager Ian Woodhurst said: “I think they need to have a cultural shift in the way they approach providing welfare; they need to stop relying on other labelling schemes and need to be more aspirational in terms of improving welfare.”

“This is a global assessment and there are variations. I think, for us, why should a chicken in one country have to endure worse conditions than somewhere else when in fact it’s the same brand and the same company. As a global animal welfare charity we know this is an issue in a lot of countries.”

A spokesperson for Nando’s said: “We know how important animal welfare is to many of our customers. Nando’s never uses caged chickens anywhere in its global supply chain. All our chickens are reared in deep littered, well- ventilated barns. In the UK, all our chickens are barn-reared to Red Tractor standards.”

Verdict foodservice contacted KFC for a comment: “World Animal Protection’s Pecking Order ranking is global and includes all of KFC’s restaurants in different territories around the world, with each market presenting different challenge. We will continue to seek their advice to help us further improve and inform our welfare plan as well as our targets for the coming year.”

WAP said the changes fast food chains need to make to improve chicken welfare are, give chickens space to move more freely and stop using cages, use breeds which grow at a healthier more natural rate, and create enriched environments providing opportunities for chickens to behave more naturally.

Verdict foodservice also contacted Domino’s and McDonald’s but did not receive a response.