Tesco shareholders today voted against a resolution from TV cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which called for the retail giant to improve its chicken-rearing standards.
The star of Channel 4's River Cottage series put forward a resolution at the company's annual general meeting requesting that the supermarket upgrade its minimum conditions to the RSPCA's "Freedom Food" marque.
The resolution, which needed the approval of at least 75 per cent of shareholders to be passed, won just under 10 per cent of the vote.
Earlier today, Fearnley-Whittingstall accused Tesco of "moving the goalposts" to ensure it defeated the resolution.
Speaking before the AGM, he claimed the company had "brought out the big guns" to crush the motion.
He told reporters that Tesco, which urged shareholders to vote against the resolution, had attempted to scare consumers by claiming improved welfare standards could add £1 to the cost of a standard supermarket chicken.
Conceding that his resolution would be defeated, the TV cook said he would be delighted if the resolution won the backing of around 10 per cent of Tesco shareholders.
Tesco was failing to meet its own stated welfare standards for chickens, Fearnley-Whittingstall said, and had also left campaigners with a bill for £87,000 for distributing their special resolution.
"This is now a special resolution that requires 75 per cent of the vote to succeed and that doesn't seem very democratic to me," the cook said.
Tesco, whose AGM was held at Birmingham's National Motorcycle Museum, has a greater duty of care to Britain's chickens than any other retailer simply because of its scale, Fearnley-Whittingstall said.
The cook went on: "They have to stop claiming that as an organisation they uphold the Five Freedoms (recommended by the Farm Animal Welfare Council) because patently they don't."
Tesco has stated that its standard chickens already meet the Farm Animal Welfare Council's Five Freedoms for livestock.
It has rejected the cook's claims that by selling factory farm chickens, it is breaching its own welfare policies.
The supermarket giant asked shareholders to vote against the resolution because it would commit it to restricting choice for customers by making chickens too expensive for them to buy.