The animal rights campaign group SAFE says new standards covering the welfare of chickens bred for their meat stop short of addressing the major issues.
The new standards, introduced by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, came into effect last week. They govern stock density, litter and air quality, lighting and temperature.
But SAFE spokesperson Eliot Pryor says the new code ignores the genetics of the birds, which are bred to grow too quickly. He says the chickens reach adult size within six weeks and are culled, but many die before then from bone problems and stress.
Mr Pryor says some chickens are unable to walk and new breeds for meat must be introduced.
He says there needs to be a slower growing breed to avoid the current problems.
Mr Pryor says raising consumer awareness is the most direct way to change what's happening, because if people know what kind of existence a chicken has had, they would think twice about purchasing it.
The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is working on a new code covering genetic issues in poultry bred for meat production but that may be a couple of years away.