KFC, one of the world’s largest fast-food chains, has committed to a significant improvement in meat chicken welfare.

KFC joins Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Nestlé and Knorr who have also signed up to the Better Chicken Commitment, pledging to meet a number of key requirements to improve the welfare of meat chickens across their entire supply, meaning that even the cheapest chicken products will have been raised to higher standards.

The RSPCA launched a campaign earlier this year calling on retailers to sign up to the commitment and revealed shoppers expect supermarkets to ensure higher animal welfare for chicken products on their shelves.

The requirements for the commitment have been drawn up by a partnership of animal protection groups, including the RSPCA - and now the RSPCA is urging other names such as Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, Coop and Morrisons to follow suit and commit to raising welfare standards across their supply chain of chicken by 2026.

The RSPCA has serious concerns about intensively reared birds. The most popular breeds have been genetically selected to grow so fast that many often struggle to walk or stand, and can suffer from severe heart defects.

Other concerns are that they are not given enough space to easily move around and be active and flap their wings freely - in fact, by the time they are fully grown each bird is allocated less space than an egg-laying hen kept in a cage.

The Better Chicken Commitment calls on retailers to address the most pressing welfare concerns in meat chicken production through the use of higher welfare breeds of chickens and providing natural light, more space, enrichment - such as straw bales and objects to peck at - and perching, as well as adopting more humane methods of slaughter. The RSPCA has long campaigned on these issues.

Claire Williams, campaign manager for the Better Chicken Commitment, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that KFC has signed up, showing that their restaurants are committed to improving welfare standards for the animals in this industry.