Costs and Implications of the European Chicken Commitment in the EU

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The Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU Countries (AVEC) has published today a new study analysing in depth the additional costs and likely implications of adopting the European Chicken Commitment (ECC) in the EU.

Numerous companies across Europe, spanning from retailers to restaurants and catering businesses, have already signed up to the ECC, a framework of standards promoted by animal welfare NGOs, which aims to enhance animal welfare and exceeds current EU legislation. The ECC commits its signatories to apply several requirements such as the use of slower-growing chicken breeds, a lower stocking density, the use of enrichment tools etc, to 100% of their (fresh, frozen and processed) poultry supply chain by 2026.

As ECC compliance progresses, crucial questions regarding its environmental implications and its effects on chicken meat production remain unanswered. To shed light on these issues, AVEC has commissioned a comprehensive impact study examining the potential consequences of fully transitioning from current EU chicken meat production to ECC standards, conducted independently by RSK ADAS Ltd (ADAS) – a consultancy firm specialising in agriculture.

“The unique aspect of this study lies in the emphasis placed on calculating costs per kilogram of meat, unlike previous research focused solely on the consequences for live birds or liveweight, which doesn’t accurately reflect market realities since we sell meat, not live animals”, states Birthe Steenberg, AVEC’s Secretary General. Jason Gittins, Technical Director for livestock at ADAS, explains further: “Due to differences in meat yields between standard and ECC production, earlier studies often underestimated the true impact of switching to ECC standards”.

The ”Costs and Implications of the European Chicken Commitment in the EU” study finds that fully transitioning to ECC standards would result in:

  • An additional production cost of 37.5% per kilogram of meat,
  • a 35.4% increase in water consumption, equating to an additional 12.44 million cubic meters annually,
  • a 35.5% increase in feed consumption, amounting to an additional 7.3 million tonnes,
  • a 24.4% rise in greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of meat produced,
  • a reduction of 44% in the total meat produced compared to standard production methods at present in existing EU growing space (>30kg/m²),
  • and the necessity to construct 9,692 new poultry houses, with an estimated cost of €8.24 billion, to maintain current production levels.

These effects on production would inevitably lead to higher prices that could exclude a large part of consumers from buying chicken meat or drastically increase imports from third countries with lower animal welfare standards. AVEC’s President, Gert-Jan Oplaat, emphasises the importance of consumer choice and informed decision-making: “While the ECC aims to improve animal welfare, it is crucial to recognise that these improvements come with significant economic and environmental implications. Knowing that EU poultry consumption is predicted to grow in the EU in the next 10 years, consumers should have the choice to select higher welfare products if they wish, but it’s crucial that standard, affordable options remain available”.

AVEC reaffirms the EU poultry sector’s dedication to continuous improvement of animal welfare in balance with economic and environmental sustainability and highlights the need for alternative methods to enhance animal welfare without imposing undue financial burdens on consumers or exacerbating environmental concerns. The association advocates for the development of output-based animal welfare indicators, grounded in scientific and objective criteria to assess welfare performance, effective farm management, comprehensive farmer training and a framework that incentivises and encourages progress through realistic and achievable objectives for producers.

“Sustainability necessitates a delicate balance between its three pillars, and while improving animal welfare is paramount, it is also important to take the economic and environmental impact into consideration,” concludes Birthe Steenberg. The EU poultry sector remains committed to delivering high-quality, accessible chicken meat produced under the highest standards in the world. We encourage consumers and policymakers to consider the study’s findings to make informed decisions about chicken production standards.

To find out more and download the full study, please click here.