New research published by RSPCA Assured reveals a double-standard in the way shoppers regard chickens, as people put the welfare of chickens for eggs above that of chickens for meat.

According to the survey, 60 per cent of people always buy cage free eggs, but as few as around half that number, 33 per cent, say they always buy ethical chicken.

This huge disparity is in spite of the majority of respondents, 86 per cent, saying they think all the chicken we eat should come from farms using ethical welfare standards.

Clive Brazier, chief executive of RSPCA Assured, said: "Most of us are making a higher welfare choice for barn, free range and organic eggs but when it comes to choosing what chicken to roast on a Sunday or where to have fried chicken we seem to be forgetting our ethics.

“Yet we’re talking about one species of animal - just two different breeds.

"You wouldn’t treat a labrador differently to a poodle, so why are we putting the welfare of a chicken that lays eggs before a chicken farmed for meat.”

Consumer pressure has brought about a revolution in the UK egg industry with cage-free production, including barn, free range and organic, accounting for 52 per cent of eggs in 2016.

But it's not such good news for meat chickens, as ethical meat chicken production is lagging far behind egg production and only accounts for a tiny minority of all the chickens reared for our tables each year.

RSPCA assured chickens, from high welfare, indoor, free range or organic farms, only account for about one per cent of UK chicken production.

According to RSPCA scientist Sophie Elwes, consumers aren't entirely to blame and there could be a number of reasons why consumption of ethical meat chicken is so much lower than ethical, cage-free eggs.

She said: "With eggs it’s easy - by law they have to state whether they come from hens in cages and many supermarkets have actually stopped selling eggs from cages altogether.

“But meat chicken labels are a minefield.

"Claims made on packaging and dubious ‘farm name’ brands can mislead people into thinking the chicken they are buying is higher welfare when it’s not.

“If the 86% of people in the survey, who think all chicken should come from higher welfare farms, only bought chicken meat labelled RSPCA Assured, free range or organic it would transform meat chicken welfare in this country.

“The difference between the cost of eggs from caged birds and free range birds is usually a matter of pence but with meat chicken the difference can be quite a bit more.

“However, when you think an RSPCA Assured chicken costs three times less - gram for gram - than a bar of Dairy Milk, or about the same price as a couple of high street coffees, it sounds much more affordable and a small price to pay for better welfare.”