By Sharon Atieno

Despite the high consumer demand for chicken meat in the continent, none of the largest global fast-food chains operating in Africa is performing well in meeting welfare standards for chickens raised for their meat.

This is according to a ranking done by World Animal Protection, termed The Pecking Order (TPO) 2020  which assessed KFC, Burger King, Subway, Domino’s Pizza Group, Domino’s Inc, McDonald’s, Nando’s (Galitos), Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Java House, Kenya’s largest food-chain.

TPO 2020, ranks how fast food restaurants are performing on their commitment, ambition and transparency on chicken welfare globally, based on publicly available information.

According to the findings, despite all these companies performing poorly in Kenya as none of them had any points for broiler chicken welfare in the country, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Java House were classed as having ‘very poor’ chicken welfare globally.

More than 140 companies globally have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment which aims to improve the conditions for rearing chicken including more space per animal, less fast-growing breeds, the presence of perches and natural light, and more respectful methods of slaughter. However, two thirds of the companies assessed have not done so.

In addition, most commitments are limited to just the United States of America, Canada and a small number of European countries. These commitments have been made by KFC, Starbucks and Subway.

Dr. Victor Yamo, Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, giving a presentation on TP2020 in Nairobi, challenged these companies to replicate these commitments in Africa as well since consumers globally are becoming increasingly concerned about animal welfare.

The ranking also reveals that performance reporting is still low, with only four companies reporting some performance on their broiler welfare commitments. The reporting is also limited to some commitments and geographies. Thus, making it difficult to hold companies accountable for the commitments made.

Many of the birds served at these restaurants are subject to unnecessary suffering and cruelty, but most companies are not showing any ambition to improve their standards.

Generally, KFC has been ranked as ‘making progress’, based on them signing the Better Chicken Commitment in six European countries. However, McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut have significantly dropped since the last ranking in 2019.

With Starbucks, Subway, Domino’s Pizza Group, Domino’s Inc and Nando’s showing no change, Domino’s Inc is the only company to achieve zero points.

World Animal Protection is calling on these global companies to lead and ensure that any chickens that are being served at their restaurants are guaranteed a life worth living through higher welfare indoor farming systems.

This system includes constant darkness of 6 hours per day, minimum intensity  of 50 lux in light periods, meaningful enrichment, enough space, 100% deep litter flooring, slower growth breeds and no cages or close confinement.

Results from a research on production costs of upgrading to higher welfare indoor farming systems, commissioned by World Animal Protection at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, showed that there was a cost increase of about 6-9 eurocents per kilogram of live bird.

In addition to benefitting chicken welfare, other gains accrued from the system will have benefits on consumers as well as workers such as reduced spread of campylobacter and salmonella which can cause zoonotic diseases. It will also decrease antibiotic resistance due to reduced antibiotic intake for the chickens.