Natural Grocers Signs On to the Better Chicken Commitment

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Natural Grocers® has pledged its participation in the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), a set of standards for broiler chicken welfare developed by a coalition of animal welfare organizations. Ninety percent of the chicken and chicken-containing products the company sells already meets or exceeds these new standards. The nation’s largest family-operated organic and natural retailer will work directly with the remaining 10% of vendors who currently do not meet all the standards to transition to meet all BCC requirements by 2026.

A group of animal welfare organizations – the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), CIWF (Compassion in World Farming) and Mercy for Animals, amongst others – banded together to develop the BCC, to ensure that welfare requirements for broiler chickens and the timelines to meet those requirements are the same for chicken farms, chicken processors,  grocery retailers, and restaurants. Natural Grocers is renowned for its strict product standards and is proud to sign on to the BCC and bring attention to the need for these critical humane and sustainable broiler chicken standards.

“We applaud Natural Grocers for the way they’ve gone about thoughtfully and intentionally signing onto the Better Chicken Commitment,” stated Ben Williamson, US Director of Compassion in World Farming. “For a few years now, Compassion in World Farming’s technical experts have been talking with Natural Grocers’ Standards team about the opportunities and challenges that come with committing to provide higher welfare chicken to their customers. It’s clear that animal welfare has always been a core value of Natural Grocers’ business and this commitment to broiler welfare further reinforces their industry leadership in driving improved standards.”

“Natural Grocers’ commitment to improving animal welfare is commendable, and their recent adoption of the Better Chicken Commitment clearly demonstrates their leadership on this critical issue,” said Jennifer Behr, corporate relations specialist at Mercy for Animals. “We are encouraged by the increasing momentum of supermarkets like Natural Grocers taking meaningful action to reduce the suffering of chickens raised for meat and urge all mainstream and specialty retailers to do the same.”

“Retailers share the responsibility to ensure farm animals are treated with compassion, and the ASPCA is thrilled to see Natural Grocers take this monumental step for chickens raised for meat,” said Julia Johnson, Manager of Corporate Policy, Farm Animal Welfare, ASPCA. “Natural Grocers’ pasture-raised eggs are already included on the ASPCA Shop With Your Heart Brand List, and this next step demonstrates that they care about the welfare of all chickens. The ASPCA congratulates Natural Grocers on its progressive BCC policy and the impact this is going to make for animals.”

Below is the full text of Natural Grocers policy:

Natural Grocers Better Chicken Commitment

As an industry leader in pioneering animal welfare standards, regenerative agriculture, and the highest food quality standards, we are proud to announce that we have signed on to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC).

Every year, millions of broiler chickens are raised in detrimental living conditions and suffer abuse due to an industrial farming model that is incentivized by a lack of system transparency. We have long fought against this system by requiring and partnering with those who maintain the highest animal welfare standards. We have always required that the chickens we sell are raised with care and respect; where animal welfare is the top priority. In addition, we require that they are provided with the space and enriched environments necessary to exhibit their natural behaviors and are provided with a diet designed for their health and nutritional requirements. We prohibit the use of antibiotics (including ionophores and pre-hatch), hormones, and other growth promotants. These standards are necessary to move our agricultural system forward so that it supports the health of the animals, the farmers, the environment, and the consumers and supports economic viability by promoting environmental stewardship.

As part of furthering the conversation and our commitment to the highest quality standards, all of the chicken we sell in our Fresh and Frozen Meat Departments, where chicken is the main ingredient, which includes all deli meats, breaded chicken products like chicken tenders, chicken sausages, whole chickens, chicken cuts and grinds, will meet the standards outlined below in the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) by 2024 and 2026. Currently, over 90% of the chicken we sell already meets the standards of the BCC laid out below—stocking density, enriched environment, controlled-atmosphere processing system (CAS), and third-party auditing requirements. We’re working with the remainder of our suppliers to transition to meeting all requirements by 2024 and 2026. We will report progress as we go as we value transparency in the process.

          The BCC standards required to be met by 2024 are:

  1. Maximum stocking density of 6.0 lbs./sq. foot and prohibit broiler cages.
  2. Provide birds enriched environments, including litter, lighting, and enrichment that meets Global Animal Partnership’s standards.
  3. Process chickens in a manner that avoids pre-stun handling and instead utilizes a multi-step controlled-atmosphere processing system (CAS) that induces an irreversible stun. *
  4. Demonstrate compliance with all standards via third-party auditing.

    The BCC standard required to be met by 2026 is:
  5. Adopt breeds that demonstrate higher welfare outcomes, either: Hubbard Black, JA757, 787, 957, or 987; Rambler Ranger, Ranger Classic, or Ranger Gold; or others that meet the criteria of the RSPCA Broiler Breed Welfare Assessment Protocol or Global Animal Partnership (GAP). **

We are excited to be part of the dedicated group that is working to improve the broiler chicken industry and leading the way for better transparency, a more humane world, and a better environment for animals and humans alike. With the right course correction, animal agriculture has the power to improve the land, the lives of the people who raise crops and animals and provide high-quality food access to all. We’re thrilled to partner and champion the BCC and continue making progress to create a better food system.

* All of our whole, pieces, and ground chicken in our Fresh and Frozen Meat Departments already use CAS (including all Mary’s Chicken deli meat products). The only outliers are some further processed chicken products (e.g. other deli meats, breaded chicken, sausage, etc.). Chicken suppliers who do not have reasonable access to CAS will not be required to use it by 2024 if it is not yet affordable, geographically available, or if the supplier processes less than 250,000 or fewer birds per week. As CAS facilities are still being developed/built across the US, the cost may be prohibitive/out of reach for some farms/suppliers and/or may require transporting the birds farther away than is safely reasonable/affordable. Those chicken suppliers must prove why CAS is not yet within reasonable access and must process birds in a way where humane treatment is a top priority and avoids pre-stun handling. This will be re-evaluated on a case-by-case basis as we move towards 2024.
** As the results/breed recommendations from the University of Guelph study are not finalized, chicken suppliers will not be required to meet this step until finalized recommendations are in place and we agree that what is put forth is reasonable. We agree that raising breeds with better outcomes is ideal, but as the breed recommendations are not finalized, we cannot require chicken suppliers to commit to an unknown requirement. This will be re-evaluated on a case-by-case basis as we move towards 2026.

About Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc. (NYSE: NGVC) is an expanding specialty retailer of natural and organic groceries, body care products, and dietary supplements. The products sold by Natural Grocers must meet strict quality guidelines and may not contain artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners, or partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils. The Company sells only USDA-certified organic produce and exclusively pasture-raised, non-confinement dairy products, and free-range eggs. Natural Grocers’ flexible smaller-store format allows it to offer affordable prices in a shopper-friendly, safe, and convenient retail environment. The Company also provides extensive free science-based Nutrition Education programs to help customers make informed health and nutrition choices. The Company, founded in 1955, has 161 stores in 20 states.