Coles RSPCA chicken taste claim is bulldust

coles rspca chicken

Chicken meat taste, according to Coles
On 3 January 2014, Coles announced that all of their homebrand chickens are now ‘RSPCA Approved’. These chickens are raised in barns farmed to the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards. The real changes for the birds are the inclusion of hay bales and a reduction in stocking density. This “reduction” in reality means a change from 18.7 birds per square metre (for 40kg/m2) to 15.9 birds per square metre (for 34 kg/m2).

In their advertisements they claim that Coles RSPCA chickens are “raised better” therefore they “taste better”. The basis for the claim is a blind taste test with 428 consumers where the Coles RSPCA chicken reportedly “tastes better than conventionally raised Coles chicken”. This test was conducted by Colmar Brunton in November 2013.

On Twitter, Coles stated, “RSPCA Approved chickens are more active and as a result the change in muscle fibres improves the eating quality.”

Chicken meat flavour, according to scientists
The flavour—that is, combination of taste and smell—of poultry may be affected by various production factors such as genotype, sex, age and diet. Processing factors include slaughter method, evisceration time, chilling rate, storage and cooking method.

In terms of production factors, Land and Hobson-Frohock (1977), Ramaswamy and Richards (1982) and Farmer et al. (1999) have determined that age has an unambiguous effect on flavour, with older birds displaying higher chicken flavour notes. Yet with selective breeding over the years, conventional chickens today can be fully grown in 35 days.

Other factors affect flavour somewhat inconsistently. Many consider genotype to be important, but Land and Hobson-Frohock (1977) has shown that this may be statistically insignificant when chickens of different strains are compared at a similar age. There have been conflicting reports on the effect of gender on the sensory attributes of chicken meat, with the age of the bird confounding the results. The Land and Hobson-Frohock (1977) review claim that large changes can be made to diet without beneficial effect on flavour. However Ramaswamy and Richards (1982) state that feed plays a role in poultry flavour when it contains significant amounts of unsaturated fatty acids.

High stocking density may cause an array of defects like scabby hips, hock burns, breast blister and burns. Yet according to Ricard et al. (1986) this does not have a marked effect on the sensory attributes of the meat. Similarly Land and Hobson-Frohock (1977) and Farmer et al. (1997) reported in their reviews that stocking density, environmental conditions and husbandry methods had little effect on eating quality, including flavour, once the age of the birds was adjusted.

The science says NO
In light of the science, the minute change to the environmental conditions and the short lifespan of the chicken, to suggest that the extra ‘movement’ opportunity created for the Coles birds can generate a noticeable difference in taste is highly questionable. Improbable. Bulldust.

9 January 2014

Dear Coles,

REMOVE your claim that your RSPCA chickens ‘tastes better’
I am unhappy about your misleading claim that your RSPCA chickens ‘tastes better’ and I am writing to ask you to remove it from your promotions.
If you don’t reply within 10 days I will formally complain to the ACCC and/or Department of Fair Trading.
You can email me info AT flavourcrusader DOT com

Yours sincerely,
Sharon Lee

Updated 13 January
In this video, Healing links increased ‘chicken movement’ and ‘muscle development’ to ‘more tender, juicy meat’. A cursory look at the evidence suggests that tender and juicy chicken meat has more to do with processing factors including minimising pre-slaughter stress, on-the-bone ageing and chilling time. Furthermore, tenderness and juiciness of meat is not taste.

The above demand stands.

REMOVE your claim that your RSPCA chickens ‘tastes better’

Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc, 2013. Growing Meat Chickens. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 January 2014].
Barbut, S., 2002. Poultry Products Processing: An Industry Guide. Boca Raton: CRC Press LLC.
Berri, C., 2004. Breeding and quality of poultry. Mead G.C. (ed). In: Poultry Meat Processing and Quality. Cambridge: Woodhead Publishing Limited. Ch 2.
Dawson, L and Spinelli, N. 2007. Poultry Meat Flavor. Nollet, L.M.L. (ed). In: Handbook of Meat, Poultry and Seafood Quality. Ames: Blackwell Publishing. Ch 34.
Farmer, L. J. 1999. Poultry meat flavor. Richardson, R.I. and Mead, G.C. (eds). In: Poultry Meat Science Symposium. Oxfordshire: CABI Publishing. Ch 5.
Land, D.G. and Hobson-Frohock, A. 1977. Flavor, taint and texture in poultry meat. Boorman, K.N. and Wilson, B.J. (eds). In: Growth and Poultry Meat Product. Edinburgh: British Poultry Science Ltd.
Ramaswamy, H.S. and Richards, J.F. (1982) Flavour of poultry meat — a review. Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology Journal 15, pp.7-18.

Related, elsewhere
Australian Chicken Growers’ Council Limited: ACGC Press Release RSPCA Coles 090114

7 Responses to Coles RSPCA chicken taste claim is bulldust

  1. Dear Coles,

    REMOVE your claims of that your RSPCA chickens ‘taste better’. You can’t fool us!!

    1. Sharon says:

      REMOVE your claims of that your RSPCA chickens ‘taste better’. You have seven days left to contact me Coles!

  2. Jo says:

    Well done Karine & Sharon, and to all consumers who may view this page. It’s a load of crap, they are trying to make consumers look like idiots and trying to suck them in, the same with their Stall Free Pork and Hormone Free Beef.

  3. I would like to highlight the issue of genetics when it comes to meat chicken flavour and welfare.

    In the United Kingdom, you can also purchase RSPCA approved chicken, with one major difference to Australia, i.e. slow growing meat chicken strains.

    Both the RSPCA in the United Kindgom and Australia list the Key Chicken Welfare Concerns as: Fast Growth Rate, Low Space Allowance (stocking density), Inadequate Lighting and Barren Environment.

    Hats off to the Australian RSPCA, they have addressed three of those four Key Welfare Concerns, but unlike the United Kindgom, Australia has only two imported fast growing broiler strains – Ross and Cobb.

    I quote from the RSPCA in the United Kingdom:

    Fast Growth Rate

    “Meat chickens have been selected to grow quickly, producing the maximum amount of meat in the minimum amount of time. The time from when they first hatch to appearing on supermarket shelves can be a little over one month, i.e. birds can reach an average slaughter weight of around 2.2. kg in just 37 days – an average daily weight gain of 58g. It is speculated that growth rates will continue to increase.

    Welfare consequences of a fast growth rate:

    ascites (heart condition)
    food pad burn
    hock burn
    leg disorders
    sudden death syndrome (heart failure).

    Rapid growth rates (e.g. 57g per bird per day) can significantly contribute to the development of severe welfare problems, such as chronic leg disorders, ascites and sudden death syndrome. Research has shown that by the time chickens are ready for slaughter many may show abnormalities in the way they walk, with one bird in four having a leg problem severe enough to affect its welfare and ability to move around. As lame birds are less active and spend more time in contact with the litter, they are more likely to also suffer from hock and food pad burn.

    What can be done to help prevent these problems? Slower growing birds (less than 45g per bird per day) should be selected for meat production.”

    The large commercial chicken meat producers in Australia are doing an efficient job of supplying the cheap chicken meat that most consumers demand, and for not much more money, you can now buy RSPCA approved chicken with improved welfare. Australia’s chicken meat industry may never think it economically viable to consider using slower growing strains now they have most people’s approval to continue with fast-growing ones).

    If you are looking for real flavour difference though, then that is greatly influenced by slower growth rate and longer life. Read more about “genetics” and the development of slower growing meat chicken strains in Australia at

    Kathryn Sommerlad.

    1. Sharon says:

      Thanks for the extra info Kathryn!

      Chickens are fabulous creatures, did you know people kept them for religious purposes before they thought of meat and eggs? There’s a research project about the social and cultural history of chickens. And check out this bird painted by Melchior d’Hondecoeter in the 1600s. And the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project; the artist (with the help of scientists) bred different chickens from around the world.

      The chook is so rich, yet in comparison, the modern broiler is a walking protein machine. Yes, really efficient, but hmmmm. I haven’t looked into the history of the Australian broiler, but I will, one day.

      “Australia’s chicken meat industry may never think it economically viable to consider using slower growing strains now they have most people’s approval to continue with fast-growing ones.”

      I hope this is not true, there needs to be real education on this and other issues (without sensationalism). Besides the welfare issues, we’re missing out on flavour. I’d much prefer chicken that tastes of itself, than nothing.

      So let’s just say I’m anticipating your chook.

  4. Jasinge says:

    Appreciate all for raising this issue. I used to buy most famous free range brand in VIC and tried this RSPCA few times. As many people buy chicken parts they may not notice the difference; but I buy whole bird all the time and I see that RSPCA is very poor in quality, disgusting to cut in to pieces and tastes bad. Those chickens are so big and almost like turkeys.

    I still unable to figure it out the red marks on the bird. Some times red patches in the shoulder area. I suspect those marks could be 2 things; one could be an injection given to the bird, other could be treated badly damaging birds wings and legs. I will never buy again.

  5. paul says:

    working along side the chicken industry I can see no improvemnt to animal welfare, in fact there are rumors all around the industy of farmers killing many thousands of birds by rotay hoeing litter in the sheds when they shoudn’t in an attemtp to pass the RSPCA audit, this is simply a money making exercise for the RSPCA, if the industry wants animal welfare then make farmers profitable not insist an a standard which has a high compliance cost with little or no compansation.

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