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LAST UPDATED: 8 Feb, 2008 @ 11:13
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Poultry producer receives RSPCA award for treatment of free-range chickens

A FOOD company in Galicia has received the UK’s highest accolade for farm animal welfare.

The free-range chickens produced by Coren can now carry the ‘Freedom Food’ label, a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) award for companies that treat livestock humanely.

To keep the Freedom Foods tag, each chicken has to have at least one square metre of outdoor space while, inside, the combined weight of chicken must not exceed 27.5 kilograms.

European regulations, in contrast, allow 39 kilos of chicken per square metre.

The birds are also fattened more slowly, reaching their slaughter weight in 80 days, as opposed to battery-farm birds which reach the same weight in 50 days.

According to the company, the birds are fed a variety of grains giving them a firmer flesh.

“Just a few years ago consumers were not worried how animals were reared or what feed they were given. But now, animal welfare is of increasing importance to consumers,” company spokesman Manuel Gómez-Franquiera said.

Now Coren has signed agreements with more than 100 suppliers around Galicia to ensure that hens in that northern region are not cooped up before ending up on the dinner table.

“We have integrated this humane concept into our production chain from the breeding of the animals in the farms to their transport and slaughter,” Señor Gomez-Franquiera added.

Currently Coren, which has annual sales of 900 million euros, produces five million free-range chickens each year.

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