Future of poultry welfare: What producers should expect

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Free-range production is seen by many as being the most welfare friendly, however, opinion remins divided. | Craig Holmes

Poultry producers can expect welfare pressures to continue growing, probably at a greater pace than they have seen to date, necessitating ongoing changes to broiler and layer management.

Welfare is a focus now not only of governments and interest groups but, increasingly, of multinational companies, and the latter will have ever-greater influence on the future of poultry welfare. Developed-world producers are already confronting a number of challenges that may eventually spread throughout developing markets, with commitments to phase out layer cages, perhaps the most high profile.

For egg producers, this will not simply be new investment, but thoroughly reviewing flock management, and where welfare is concerned, views are mixed on benefits for birds.

Read the entire article about the future of poultry welfare in May WATT PoultryUSA

Interest in slower-growing birds is a similar example of how welfare attitudes vary greatly between groups, as speed of growth alone is not universally seen as among the best welfare indicators. Nevertheless, welfare-motivated consumer demand in this area continues rising and the industry must respond.

The drivers of welfare are changing. Large corporations are taking a growing role not only in response to consumers, but picking up public sector responsibilities in countries favoring smaller government. 

Where one major company leads, others follow. McDonald’s 2015 announcement that all its eggs in the US and Canada would come from cage-free birds was followed by others committing to do the same. This ripple effect continues.

Retailers will also put more demands on producers. It is Europe’s retailers – not legislators – that are bringing an end to enriched cages.

Companies increasingly deem welfare a “key business issue,” says Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). More are signing up to its Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) –  established wtih World Animal Protection and Coller Capital –  designed to drive higher welfare in food business.  The latest BBFAW includes 99 companies.

It will not only be the poultry industry’s clients that drive welfare, but its suppliers too. As the industry becomes increasingly standardized, genetics companies will have little interest in supplying birds that perform poorly in changed production system.

In this issue, you will also learn about:

Read the full article.

This is the fifth article in WATT Global Media’s 100-year anniversary series, which considers bird welfare. The next article in the series will explore industry structure.

Mark Clements is the editor of Poultry International. To contact Clements, email mclements@wattglobal.com.

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