According to the company’s first animal welfare report, more than a third of the birds on its supplier farms in the UK and Ireland suffer from footpad dermatitis, a painful inflammation that is usually caused by poor ventilation and litter management, which can, in severe cases, prevent birds from walking normally.
KFC adds that the number of birds affected has fallen from more than half to 35% in four years, and that some suppliers were achieving levels of 15% or less.
The report also reveals that one in ten KFC chickens suffer hock burn caused by ammonia from the waste of other birds.
Overall, the number of birds that die or are culled because of disease or injury are falling, mortality rates remain at about 4%, higher than the average mortality rate of 2%-3% recorded across the rest of the industry.
Nearly all the chickens reared for KFC are fast-growing breeds, which exacerbates health and welfare problems in the birds.
However, the business says it wants to transition more of its 34 suppliers to slower growing breeds. It adds that, for this to happen, progress will need to be made not only in the UK, but also across the EU, as well as in Thailand and Brazil.
The fried chicken chain, which has more than 900 locations across the country, has also said it wants to reduce stocking density on farms, and has signed up to the NGO-led Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) to improve its welfare standards.
“Meeting the criteria in the BCC is no easy feat, but KFC have put in place an active programme outlining the changes that need to be made to improve the brand’s supply chain, culminating in the publishing of the first report,” says Paula MacKenzie, general manager of KFC UK and Ireland.
“This report sends a clear message to everyone, our suppliers, our teams and our stakeholders, on exactly what we are looking for in terms of welfare improvement. We know that what gets measured gets managed, and the figures in this report represent a solid benchmark against which we can track our future progress.”
KFC has been praised by animal welfare campaigners for its willingness to make public the data in its first ever animal welfare report, which you can read here.
The data will be used by the company to track its progress in tackling various welfare measures, including mortality rates, antibiotic use and stocking density.
Earlier this week, piri piri chicken restaurant chain Nando's made its own welfare commitments, pledging to reduce the carbon footprint of its meals by a further 50% following a reduction of 40% since 2015.
The group has also partnered with Compassion in World Farming, FAI Farms and the Soil Association to introduce a new long-term chicken welfare policy that will fully come into force by 2026.