This document describes the benefits of using controlled atmosphere systems, including low atmosphere pressure stunning, at slaughter for broiler chickens.
The different systems available from the main equipment manufacturers are described and the document provides Compassion’s key recommendations to consider when comparing systems.
The disadvantages of multi-tier colony and net flooring systems for broilers
A note from Compassion on multi-tier colony cages and net flooring systems outlining the disadvantages for broiler welfare.
Humane Slaughter of Broiler Chickens
Improving Electrical Waterbath Stunning
Electrical waterbath stunning systems are the most prevalent method of stunning used in the slaughter of billions of farmed birds worldwide.
This document summarises just some of the ways that businesses can improve their waterbath stunning systems to ensure that welfare is upheld as required by European legislation.
Although systems may vary by manufacturer, by country of processing or by the individual abattoir, they all work according to the same principle: birds are inverted and shackled on a moving line; their heads are then immersed in an electrified waterbath which causes a current to run through the head and body of the bird. When this happens within the correct parameters immediate unconsciousness is induced.
Legislation on the protection of animals during slaughter and killing will vary globally, however in Europe the current regulation has been applied since 1st January 2013 - Council Regulation (EC) No.1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing. The major provision of this EU regulation is that animals shall be spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing and related operations (e.g. handling, lairage, restraint, stunning and bleeding).
For a more comprehensive overview of the ways to improve welfare in electrical waterbath stunning, please refer to the Humane Slaughter Association’s full text guide.
For further information on the electrical stunning of birds and the industry-wide problem of ineffective stunning, please see our presentation on Effective Recoverable Stunning.
Welfare Issues Table - Broiler Chickens
Poor welfare in broiler chickens is often due to poor husbandry. With care and suitable housing, many of these risks can be eliminated.
Welfare Potential Matrix - Broilers
A summary table which outlines the welfare potential by production system for broiler chickens using a ‘Bad-Better-Best’ model.
Welfare Outcome Summary - Broiler Chickens
Welfare outcomes are an animal-based method of assessing factors that contribute to an animal’s quality of welfare. This information sheet provides a selection of the main measures recommended for broiler chickens.
How welfare schemes compare to Compassion's criteria for higher welfare - Broiler Chickens
The Food Business team has recently produced comprehensive tables comparing various welfare schemes with Compassion’s criteria for higher animal welfare.
Compassion analysed 34 initiatives, across 10 countries and 4 species (broiler chickens, laying hens, sows and meat pigs and dairy cows and calves) to understand which ones meet Compassion’s criteria for higher animal welfare.
Better Chicken Commitment overview
A one page summary to help producers and companies understand more about the criteria behind the Better Chicken Commitment.
Broiler leg health plan
For breeds / strains with average growth rate potentials in excess of 50g/d over the production cycle, a leg health plan MUST be in place.
The Science Driving Change for Broiler Welfare
This presentation from Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business covers the following issues in broiler production:
- stocking density and where to set the limits
- breeding and the impact of selection for high growth rate
- the benefits of a stimulating environment for better broiler welfare
Watch the video...
Chicken meat production in the EU
Over 6 billion broiler chickens are slaughtered for meat in the EU-27 each year, producing around 9.4 million tonnes of chicken meat, with an average per capita consumption of 17.4 kg/year (Avec, 2011). The top six chicken meat producing countries of the EU-27 are shown in Figure 1, and account for 67.6% of the total EU production. The UK is the largest producer, with Poland, France, Germany and Spain producing similar amounts.
Consumer perception of broiler production
Animal welfare is an increasingly important factor in the purchasing decisions of consumers (Napolitano et al., 2010), sustained despite the prevailing recession (IGD, 2011). Recent surveys indicate almost half of UK consumers surveyed rated animal welfare as either ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ (IGD, 2011), whilst 76% (Defra, 2011) and 85% (Conan et al., 2010) rated welfare as ‘an important’ issue. In fact farm animal welfare was rated the single most important sustainability related food issue for British consumers (IGD, 2011; Defra, 2011), above health or safety concerns. Over 70% of US citizens surveyed also reported ‘concern’ for farm animal welfare (Norwood and Lusk, 2011). Broilers were identified amongst the three animal systems most in need of animal welfare improvements by EU citizens (European Commission, 2005).
Broiler welfare in commercial systems
Broiler welfare is protected to some degree under EU legislation (Council Directive, 2007), further adoption of that legislation by implementing countries (example, Welfare of Farmed Animals, 2010) and various assurance schemes. The main factors considered likely to improve welfare on-farm are those of stocking density (inclusive of environmental control), growth rate (inclusive of breed suitability), and environmental enrichment.
Case Study - Windstreek Broiler House
The Windstreek broiler house is the product of six years of development work and the vision of Robert Nijkmap, a poultry farmer based near Zwolle, in the Netherlands.
The idea for the Windstreek broiler house originated from a Wageningen University research project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation which explored possible solutions for sustainable broiler production and consumption.
After the research project’s conclusion, Mr Nijkamp was determined to see the Windstreek broiler house become a reality on his farm. He set about pulling together key stakeholders to develop the concept further and eventually realise the design.
The house now produces 145,600 birds per year and the chicken is processed and marketed by Plukon Food Group and sold by Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn, mostly as fresh portioned chicken.
The development of the Windstreek broiler house is a bold project, which incorporates a whole range of innovative features and examples of best practice for animal welfare and the environment, for which it was recognised with a Best Innovation Award from Compassion in 2016.