Overbreeding, cramped sheds and agonizing slaughtering practices: The suffering of chickens is immense, especially in conventional farming. We investigated 15 fast-food chains in Germany to see how they implement animal welfare criteria in the rearing of broiler chickens. The results are presented in our second Pecking Order Report.
The Pecking Order is based on the criteria of the European Chicken Commitment (ECC). The ECC, which was co-developed by our foundation, defines a set of minimum requirements for chicken farming and provides companies with clear procurement criteria for their European supply chain. In this way, we support the restaurant industry in making a significant contribution to animal welfare and sustainability throughout Europe. The ECC’s criteria aim, for example, to reduce overbreeding and ensure more space and activities for chickens. Learn more about the ECC’s criteria here and in our full 2023 report. Like the European summary, it is published in collaboration with World Animal Protection.
Our assessment of the companies’ animal welfare progress covers two pillars: In pillar 1 (»Commitments and Targets«), companies earn points if they have signed up to the ECC. A company is awarded full points for their full commitment and transparent communication on it. Pillar 2 (»Performance Reporting«) concerns the actual implementation of these criteria. A company is awarded full points if all its products used in Germany meet all the ECC’s criteria and the company reports on this transparently and unambiguously.
Both areas contribute 50% each to the overall result. Depending on the total number of points scored, the companies achieve one of six tiers: as with school grades in Germany, 1 is the best rating and 6 the worst.
Overview of the results
In the »Commitments and Targets« pillar, eight companies score 100% (KFC, Domino’s, Subway, Dean & David, Hans im Glück, L’Osteria, Peter Pane and Vapiano). These companies have committed to fully implementing the ECC criteria and inform their German customers accordingly. In the »Performance Reporting« pillar, KFC scores highest with 50%. So far, only three companies (KFC, Domino’s and Subway) transparently report on how they implement parts of the ECC’s criteria. Twelve companies score no points at all.
Overall, compared with the 2022 Pecking Order, surprisingly little has changed. Three companies show visible progress in improving broiler chicken farming compared with last year (Domino’s, Subway and newcomer Vapiano, which recently published a European-wide ECC policy). The majority of fast-food chains, however, have come to a standstill. Many companies are either not setting any goals for more animal welfare (ECC or other), not optimizing their supply chains or not reporting on their progress. Twelve companies were awarded only 50% or fewer of the available points. Four companies even scored 0%, clearly demonstrating their lack of interest in animal welfare (Autogrill, Burger King, Call a Pizza and Starbucks).
Unfortunately, our report shows that many companies do not feel the need to take responsibility for their supply chains. Even companies that have already signed up to the ECC often implement the criteria either inadequately or not at all.
Detailed results of the companies
KFC scores highest in the ranking. That said, the 75% scored by the company is only enough for tier 3—a step backward compared with last year’s ranking, when KFC received tier 2 with 79%. The company fully supports the ECC, but it is unfortunate that it now scores only 50% for »Performance Reporting«—which is 7 percentage points less than last year. This reduced score is due to the fact that a lower share of the supply chain complies with the ECC. KFC needs to improve in the coming years in order to maintain its top spot in the ranking—or risk being overtaken by Domino’s.
With an overall score of 69%, Domino’s is closing in on KFC. The company takes the ECC seriously and considers it integral to its sustainability strategy. Domino’s has pledged to fully adhere to the ECC criteria by 2026 and therefore scores 100% in pillar 1. In terms of implementation, Domino’s has progressed from 17% to 37% since 2022. Overall, the company receives tier 3 (»Making Progress«), which is up one tier compared with last year.
With an overall score of 60%, Subway receives tier 3 and so also moves up one tier. Subway has fully committed itself to the ECC but it still has considerable room for improvement in terms of implementation and reporting, scoring only 20% of the possible points. On a positive note, two years after joining the ECC, Subway has now submitted its first progress report.
Dean & David is a newcomer in this year’s ranking, receiving only tier 4 (»Getting Started«), with an overall score of 50%. Unfortunately, the total score in the »Commitments & Targets« pillar contrasts with 0% in »Progress Reporting«. The company signed up to the ECC in April 2020, but has since neglected to publish a detailed public report on their progress in other areas. This means that we cannot assess the company’s progress in implementation.
For Hans im Glück, our investigation paints a similar picture to Dean & David: Like Dead & David, Hans im Glück also signed up to the ECC in 2020, but it scores 0% in »Performance Reporting« due to inadequate reports. With an overall score of 50%, Hans im Glück receives only tier 4. The company published its first detailed report only a few days before this publication and therefore outside the investigation period.
L’Osteria joined the ECC in 2022 but has yet to submit a progress report. 100% in pillar 1 and 0% in pillar 2 result in an overall score of 50%. This is only enough for tier 4, meaning that the company was unable to improve on its previous ranking. We are curious to see how quickly L’Osteria will progress in implementing the criteria next year.
Peter Pane also receives only tier 4. Although this is the first year in which the company is included in our ranking, it joined the ECC back in 2019. However, Peter Pane provides only very vague information about its progress and so scores zero for »Performance Reporting«. In the future, the company plans to focus more on vegan and vegetarian products, which is commendable but irrelevant for this ranking.
Vapiano joined the ECC only recently and has yet to submit a report, so its tier 4 status (at 50%) comes as no surprise. We commend the company’s Europe-wide commitment and hope that Vapiano will rise in the ranking with a swift transition and transparent reporting.
The tier 5 (»Poor«) ranking kicks off with Pizza Hut, which achieves an overall score of 47%. This means that the company has fallen back by one tier. Pizza Hut was not awarded top marks here because it does not publicly communicate its commitment to consumers in Germany. Although the company signed up to the ECC in 2019, not a single progress report has been published since. It seems, therefore, that Pizza Hut has so far not taken any concrete steps toward higher animal welfare standards, hence its 0% score in this pillar.
Ikea scores 47% in the overall rating and so drops back to tier 5. The company was awarded only 94% in the »Commitments & Targets« pillar because it does not communicate its commitment to German-speaking customers on the relevant websites. While Ikea does state that 55% of its chicken meat used worldwide fulfills some of the ECC criteria, it is unclear which regions and which criteria this figure refers to, because Ikea does not establish supply chain transparency here. Overall, Ikea’s report no longer provides detailed information about individual criteria, as it did in 2022, which is why the score in pillar 2 has plummeted from 33% (2022) to 0%.
Autogrill—another newcomer to the ranking—starts with an overall score of 0%, placing in the lowest level. The company shows no interest in improving chicken farming in its supply chain, nor has it made any effort in this regard.
Nothing has changed at Burger King, whose overall score remains 0%, just like last year. The company still does not specify any standards for chicken farming in Germany, while it has committed to implementing the criteria in other countries such as the US, Canada and the UK. In France, Burger King published a pledge last year that includes the same criteria as the ECC.
Call a Pizza also appears to have zero interest in improved chicken farming, and there are no published standards available. The company therefore receives tier 6, with 0%.
With an overall rating of 5%, McDonald’s places in tier 6 (»Very Poor«), the lowest tier. This result is calculated from a score of 9% for »Commitments & Targets« and 0% for »Progress Reporting«. McDonald’s has made rudimentary commitments to improve certain aspects of chicken farming. However, the criteria set by McDonald’s fall short of those in the ECC. Last year, McDonald’s achieved a score of 17% for reporting, stating publicly that it would no longer be using cages. This statement can no longer be found.
McDonald’s often talks about advancing research on chicken farming and launching associated projects—but consumers in Germany don’t see any actual progress for the animals. As a result, chickens continue to suffer worldwide for chicken burgers, nuggets and the like.
Starbucks’ 0% score, which puts it in tier 6, is particularly regrettable. The company has not signed up to the ECC in Germany and so is lagging behind its commitments in the UK, USA and Canada.
Fast-food chains in Germany still have a lot of work ahead of them. Some companies are taking concrete steps and transparently reporting on how they are improving the situation for broiler chickens in their supply chains—and this is commendable. Other companies, however, joined the ECC years ago but have yet to implement the criteria adequately or have failed to report on their progress. Instead of positioning themselves as modern and responsible enterprises, five of the major fast-food chains under investigation continue to turn a blind eye to the conditions in broiler chicken farming.
Time is running out. ECC members have committed themselves to raising the standards in broiler chicken farming by 2026 at the latest. However, the necessary market transformation requires that this change be accelerated. It is also essential that more major fast-food chains take responsibility and finally support the ECC. For the implementation of a new minimum standard across the industry, it is also important that companies make a commitment for the whole of Europe and not—as is unfortunately the case with Burger King and Starbucks—just for individual countries. While these companies raise their standards in other countries, they do not seem to consider this necessary in Germany.
In the future, we expect companies to implement changes more quickly, to take their commitment more seriously and to increase their awareness of the unbearable conditions in conventional chicken farming, and we will continue to monitor progress—or the lack thereof.