Posted at 13 July 2018
Recurring disease outbreaks and recalls have made consumers increasingly suspicious about their food. Now, more than ever, they want healthy chickens that are raised naturally.
Wariness about chemical additives
“We all want to stay healthy as long as possible and we get new proof every day that food habits play a major role in health,” explains Caroline Avier, Consumer Insight & Communication Manager at Diana Food. “More than ever, consumers are suspicious about how chemical additives may harm their health.” Although hormone use in poultry production was banned in the US in the 50’s, “hormone-free” claims are on the rise, with “a 67% increase between 2014 and 2017, reflecting strong consumer concerns [about the issue],” confirms Michael Averbook, Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel. Antibiotic use is also a hot topic, as there is growing scientific consensus on how it increases antimicrobial resistance by making certain dangerous bacteria stronger, in turn raising the risks of human contamination across the food chain. In 2015, the FDA issued its Veterinary Feed Directive final rule, which allows veterinarians to authorize the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials in feed to protect animals when necessary. “The industry is under pressure to change its sourcing practices. For example, McDonald’s has committed to serving only chicken meat from suppliers banning the use of antibiotics that the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as Highest Priority Critically Important Antimicrobials (HPCIA) to human health by January 2018,” says Avier.
CAbout animal welfare
Quentin Brouet says that consumers’ mistrust and wariness about processed foods have led to a much-needed comprehensive shift within the industry. “All big key industry players are being seriously challenged on these health issues by smaller actors leveraging the ‘no-additives’ trend. This is why you see leading global companies adapting their strategies to regain consumers’ trust and add value to their offers. We are witnessing an important wave of acquisitions of smaller companies specialized in this whole health and ethics trend, including products with organic, local sourcing and animal welfare claims. Big players are also actively revamping their portfolios to remove unacceptable ingredients or introduce new suitable recipes.”
About animal welfare
“The livestock industry’s productivity methods could be synonymous with cruelty in many people’s minds and are no longer tolerable,” says Marie Le Henaff, Sustainability Manager at Diana Food. “The birds are confined in massive, overcrowded windowless sheds, breathing toxic air due to high levels of ammonia in the litter. They grow at an abnormally fast rate that causes them to suffer broken bones, organ ruptures and even heart failure,” she adds.
With pressure from an outraged public, poultry breeders are beginning to make efforts to change. For example, at the request of big retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Starbucks, many of them are converting to slow growing processes. This means using chicken breeds that take 25% longer to grow, which prevents the physiological pain in birds linked to fast growth rates while yielding better-tasting meat.
1 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study