MILFORD, Conn. – Subway, one of the world’s largest fast-casual chains, added new initiatives to the company’s social responsibility policies regarding the welfare of poultry used in Subway foods.

Specifically, Subway has committed to sourcing 100 percent of its chicken from birds raised according to GAP [Good Agricultural Practice] standards for improved welfare, living conditions, activity levels and stocking density. The company expects to reach its goals in full by 2024.

“Our suppliers’ animal welfare practices will be third party audited and updates will be communicated annually,” according to the company’s website. “We will continue to explore and implement other approaches that are deemed to provide better health and welfare outcomes for the animal based on proven scientific research, and veterinarian approved best practices and oversight.”

Subway also is evaluating alternative breeds with the goal of further improving animal welfare. The company’s policy states that “…we continue to work closely with our suppliers to identify an alternative breed that can be incorporated into our supply chain. Just as important, we expect to improve the welfare of our existing breeds through changes in their environment, activity levels and handling practices that will be phased in as they are proven.”

The policy also states that Subway supports humane animal husbandry and harvest methods, and that by 2024, all chickens will be processed using controlled atmospheric stunning (CAS). At least one supplier already has begun the transition to CAS, and other suppliers are evaluating alternative stunning methods to enhance animal welfare.

Finally, the company said its suppliers will undergo third-party audits to ensure compliance with Subway’s animal welfare standards. “Also, all our chicken products come from chickens raised without antibiotics (RWA) which will be USDA Processed Verified in 2017,” according to the company’s policy. “This verification will be expanded to include the continuous improvements in animal welfare practices outlined in ISO 34700 as they are implemented.”

Compassion in World Farming, an animal welfare group, applauded Subway’s new policy. “This day marks a watershed moment for the chicken industry,” Rachel Dreskin, head of US Food Business for Compassion in World Farming, said in a statement. “When the largest fast food chain in the world commits to better chicken, there’s no turning back.”