1. The study was designed to assess the impact of stocking density (6 and 13 birds/m² equivalent to 12·6 or 27·2 kg/m², respectively) on growth performance, meat quality, behaviour, and indicators of physiological and oxidative stress as measures of bird welfare. 2. The higher stocking density negatively affected final body weight and feed intake but not cumulative feed conversion rate. Muscle colour traits, pH₂₄, cooking loss and shear values were not affected. Birds reared at the lower density showed higher intramuscular fat, liver weight, liver NADP-isocitrate and NADP-malate dehydrogenase activity. 3. Higher stocking density was associated with decreased locomotor activity and increased physiological (H:L ratio and bursa weight) and oxidative (glutathione concentrations and reduced:oxidised glutathione ratios) stress indicators. 4. The results show that stocking density did not significantly affect broiler meat quality characteristics but higher density decreased growth performance, increased physiological and oxidative stress levels and decreased locomotor activity.