WATT PoultryUSA - January 2018 - 48
48 ❙ WATTPoultryUSA
Improve poultry welfare with
Welfare standards based on
objective measurements of
outcomes for poultry present
an opportunity for innovation
and will lead to improved bird
Many poultry welfare schemes have primarily relied on
resource-based measures like inches of perch space per
layer, maximum number of pounds of broiler allowed per
square foot of floor space, or the number of square inches
allocated per hen in either a cage or cage-free environment.
Dr. Joy Mench, chairperson of the United Egg
Producers' (UEP) scientific advisory committee, said
resource-based measures have some advantages because they tend to be easy to measure and translate
into legal requirements.
Mench told the audience at the United Egg
Producers Executive Conference that resource-based
welfare measures are sometimes derived from research
study results, but not always. Even if the welfare standards reflect research results, resource-based measures
reflect results with specific breeds of birds at a moment
in time. The results might not be the same with a different breed or even with the same breed a few years
later as selective breeding changes that line of birds.
Simply put, she said resource-based measures are
inflexible and do not always improve animal welfare.
Outcome-based welfare standards
Mench said space allocated per bird in poultry houses
is a good example of how resource-based measures don't
always ensure improved welfare. She said Dr. Marian
Dawkins conducted research on commercial broiler farms
in the U.K. looking at the effect of space on outcomebased measures like foot pad condition and lameness.
"What she found was that space was not a terribly
important factor in causing these problems. What really was important was litter management and ventilation and air quality," said Mench. "What was more important was how good the producers were in managing
"This work led the EU to change their ideas of how
they would set space requirements. Now, producers are
allowed to have relatively high stocking densities, as long
as they don't have foot problems and lameness. If you
have lameness issues, then you have to reduce stocking
density until you can resolve the problem," she said.
Outcome-based welfare measures attempt to quantify the impact of the bird's environment and the management of the poultry house on the bird. Examples of
outcome-based measures are morbidity and mortality,
body condition, feather cover, injury and air quality.
Sometimes outcome-based measures are referred to as
www.WATTAgNet.com ❙ January 2018