We’ve encouraged Fast Food outlets to transition to Free Range Chicken
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A Sydney-based restaurant chain has launched a campaign to encourage fast food outlets to transition to free range chicken, but the chicken industry has dismissed it as a marketing ploy.
Mexican fast food chain Guzman y Gomez has committed to sell only Australian-grown free range chicken in its 80 stores in Australia, Singapore and Tokyo.
The chicken will be sourced from Lilydale Free Range chicken, a subsidiary of major Australian processor Baiada Poultry.
Guzman y Gomez (GYG) founder Steven Marks has also launched an animal welfare campaign to coincide with the switch to free range, called ‘fix fast food’.
Mr Marks said the aim of the campaign is to encourage the fast food industry to convert to using free range chicken and improve animal welfare.
He said he wants to challenge industry to promote higher standards of animal welfare.
“[In our stores] we’re going to start with free range chicken, which is our biggest protein,” he said.
“It’s 60 per cent of what we sell.”
Mr Marks said consumers want a higher standard of animal welfare.
“Barn raised chickens are basically for mass production,” he said.
“Australia has high standards for everything but I think if all the biggest players in Australia move to free range, it would be incredible for Australia.”
Mr Marks said the initial shift to free range chicken has cost his business in excess of $1 million.
But he said he is happy to absorb that cost and not pass it on to customers.
“We’re so ethically minded and we want to be leaders in this industry that we’re going to take the risk,” he said.
Free range industry happy with promotion, but sceptical of outcome
The head of the national accreditor for free range chicken growers says he agrees with the promotion of free range, but he says the proportion of free range farms has “levelled out”.
Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Limited chair and free range farmer Robert Kestel said any move to encourage the uptake of free range products was a good one.
Mr Kestel said consumers are more aware about where their food comes from.
“Whether it be a chicken, an egg or a litre of milk, they show a lot more interest in tracing their food back to the farm gate,” he said.
Most chickens grown in Australia are grown in large open sheds, which can contain up to 60,000 birds.
To seek free range accreditation, chicken growers must reduce stocking density to 40 kilograms of birds per square metre and allow access for outdoor roaming.
But Mr Kestel said despite the growing interest in free to range products, he was not convinced that most consumers knew much about the production systems themselves.
“I don’t know if the consumers understand what’s behind free range,” he said.
“Or they if they just think as long as it’s got ‘free range’ on their label, I’m happy.”
This article originally was posted to ABC, and written by Bridget Fitzgerald