All you need to know about the British poultry industry

A picture of a smallholding of free range Turkeys.

The poultry meat sector is one of Britain’s favourites because it is versatile, nutritious, affordable and trusted. Learn all you need to know about the industry here.

About the industry

The British poultry industry covers chicken, geese, turkey and duck – covering half of the meat eaten in the country, and growing!

According to statistics from the British Poultry Council, the average Brit consumes 35kg of poultry meat each year.

British farmers pride themselves on having some of the highest welfare standards in the world, and are committed to producing safe, wholesome, and nutritious food for Britain. 

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Red Tractor

The Red Tractor logo can be found on British food and drink products which have been certified to rigorous standards. Over 90% of poultry meat farms are Red Tractor assured.

This means that the way they rear their birds meets strict standards of animal welfare, safety, hygiene and traceability.

Red Tractor strictly monitors the scheme and any farmers found not to be adhering to standards are removed from the assurance scheme. Red Tractor farms are independently audited every year to ensure they are complying with the scheme rules.

When you see this logo on the food you buy, you can be sure it has been reasonably sourced and safely produced. Don't forget to look out for it when shopping!

The latest Red Tractor adverts aim to highlight that, even in price-conscious times, consumers can still buy British food that is assured to rigorous standards, just by looking for the Red Tractor logo. 

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Poultry sector and the economy

British farmers rear 1 billion broilers for food every year, which contribute £4.6 billion to the UK economy.

The poultry meat industry supports over 37,000 jobs, ranging from farmers and farm managers to processors, haulage companies and lorry drivers. In addition to this, 13,000 workers are employed for seasonal production each Christmas.

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Animal health and welfare

How do British farmers make sure that their birds are 'happy'?

The health and welfare of their birds is a farmers’ number one priority.

They are raised in environments where they have access to food, water, warmth and plenty of space. The majority of sheds housing poultry have windows to allow natural daylight in.

Every farmer has their own creative ways to entertain the hens and keep them occupied. This might be to hang pieces of string around with CDs attached for them to peck, give the birds toys to play with, or add bales of straw or shavings for the birds to stand on.

How do British farmers ensure their birds have enough space?

A bird’s welfare is all farmer’s number one priority, and there are several rules and regulations in place to ensure the bird’s welfare.

UK, Red Tractor and RSPCA standards make sure that the stocking density is controlled and managed. In simple terms this means that there are not too many birds in a given space.

How are Broilers kept? 

A broiler is a male or female chicken that is bred and raised specifically for the production of meat. Many typical broilers have white feathers (unlike laying hens which are nearly all brown).

How a chicken is housed depends on the choice of the farmer and the consumer demand. There are 3 main types of production systems in the UK.

Standard indoor

Indoor broilers are raised in large, open structures. Floors of these houses are covered in bedding material with access to feed and water.

Keeping birds inside protects them from predators and can be equipped with curtain walls, which can be rolled up in good weather to admit natural light and fresh air. Optimum conditions in the shed can also be maintained for the birds health and welfare.

Free range system

A free-range broiler must have continuous daytime access to the outdoors, as well as nest boxes, adequate perches and floor space.

Organic broilers

Organic broilers are always free range but are also fed an organically produced diet and ranged on organic land. Organic birds are reared to a lower stocking density than free range and for a longer period of time.

Chlorinated chicken

Chlorinated chicken, or chlorine-washed chicken, refers to chicken that has been dipped or washed in chlorinated water to remove harmful bacteria. It’s a process which is banned in Britain but used by some US poultry producers.

The UK adopts a ‘farm-to-fork’ approach to food safety and only drinking water is permitted to wash chicken carcasses post-slaughter.

Banning the use of chlorine in British poultry meat production ensures that higher standards of hygiene and animal welfare are met throughout each stage of the process, rather than relying on a chemical to kill any harmful pathogens and bacteria post-slaughter.

British farmers are rightly proud of their world leading food standards, and a post-Brexit trade agreement with the US puts this at risk.

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How can I support the poultry industry? 

When shopping in the supermarket, remember to check the food labels for the Red Tractor logo and British flag, and if buying from a local butcher you can always ask where the meat has come from.

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