Chickens

image of chickens
image of chickens

All our chicken is higher welfare

At Waitrose we’re proud of the way every single one of our birds is reared. Our animal welfare requirements go beyond Red Tractor Assurance: we have a bespoke set of standards that our poultry farmers adhere to.

And these apply to all of the birds reared for all of our chicken, not just organic and free-range. Our Essential Waitrose fresh and frozen chicken, as well as the chicken used in our prepared foods, such as ready meals, soups and sandwiches, is all from birds reared with the same high standards of care.

That’s why we win awards for our farming. Look out for our animal welfare marque on our own-label meat and fish.

Award-winning supermarket for animal welfare

We like to keep our chickens happy

  • All our chickens are reared by a group of carefully selected British farmers, who share our commitment to high standards of animal welfare. We have no intention of changing this or lowering our standards.
  • Our Essential chicken comes from birds with 20% more space than the industry standard, with room to move around, scratch, perch and play.
  • Our chickens do not need to be washed with chlorine because of the high standards of farming we insist upon. That will never change.
  • The birds reared for our chicken do not have their beaks trimmed.
  • We are one of the only UK supermarkets to have signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, pledging to sell chicken from slower growing breeds by 2026.
  • We work closely with our farmers and suppliers to reduce the levels of campylobacter. Our industry-leading action plan is designed to reduce the presence of the organism, which can cause illness. Find out more and view our latest results.

Meet the farmer

image of a chicken farmer, Emily McGowan

Emily McGowan rears higher welfare chickens on the family farm for the Essential Waitrose range

“Our family has been farming here since 1889 and I’m the sixth generation, the youngest of three girls,” says Emily McGowan. “I think I was the last chance to get a farmer’s son! I always knew I wanted to farm and I love working with my dad.

“We’ve been rearing chickens for Waitrose for some time now – we don’t sell our birds to anyone else – and a big part of the attraction of working with Waitrose was that the chickens are higher welfare. They live in light, airy houses, with 20% more space than the industry standard and good ventilation and heating, so the floor’s always nice and dry for them. They’ve got access to feed and water all the time and we give them straw bales to play with. Dad’s even got cameras linked to his phone, so he can check on them.

“They’re very used to us going into the houses and depending on the light, they’ll either just be chilling out and feeding, or they’ll be running around and playing. We had little trackers on some of them as part of a research project and it showed they travel around the whole house, which is good for them.

‘They’ve got access to feed and water all the time and we give them straw bales to play with. Dad’s even got cameras linked to his phone, so he can check on them’

“They’re completely mesmerised by the bales – they really have a lot of fun with those. And when they hear the noise that means food’s coming, even though they’ve got feed there all the time, they get excited. They almost prick up their ears, like when your mum calls you for dinner.

“We’re really proud of the way we look after our birds. Poultry farming has suffered from quite a negative image, so we like showing people how our chickens actually live. We take part in Open Farm Sunday and people have always been pleasantly surprised when they see what a natural environment it is for the birds.

“We’re a small mixed farm and working with Waitrose helps us a lot, because as long as we do things right, we’re guaranteed a good price. It means we can give the birds a better life and the customer gets better chicken.”

Why our chicken farms are in Northern Ireland

All our chicken is reared within 50 miles of Moy Park, one of the country’s most advanced poultry processing plants.

The birds are taken there by Red Tractor-approved hauliers with a maximum transportation time of eight hours – however, it is usually much less than this.

Find out about the chicken you buy

essential Waitrose & Partners logo

Essential Waitrose British chicken

Reared by farmers who share our commitment to high standards of animal welfare, the birds have 20% more space than the industry standard. They have room to move around, scratch, perch and play in purpose-built houses with large windows giving them more natural light than on a conventional chicken farm. Our Essential Waitrose chicken standards are recognised by animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming because they go beyond the RSPCA's recommendations on space.

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No.1 Waitrose & Partners logo

No.1 free range corn-fed British chicken

Free range birds have access to grassy paddocks with trees and hedgerows, where they can run about, dust-bathe, forage and find shelter. At night, the birds return to houses for protection. Cover and shelters are provided to help them feel protected and secure. They are reared for longer, and fed on a maize-based diet on British family farms. Our organic and free range chicken farmers have planted over 70,000 trees for their birds to run between.

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Waitrose Duchy Organic logo

Duchy Organic free range British chicken

These birds are reared from a slower-growing breed and farmed to strict organic standards set out and audited by Organic Farmers and Growers certification body. They are free to roam on organic pasture, returning to houses at night for protection, and fed an organically grown diet. They typically have access to larger outdoor spaces than free-range, with about four metres square for each bird.

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Beef cattle

Beef cattle have more room to roam

They have more space than the Red Tractor standard, and we never use growth hormones.

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