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Assessing and improving poultry welfare in commercial production systems

Publication Details
Knierim, U.; Jung, L.; Gieseke, D.
Bessei, Werner
Publication year:
Lohmann Information
Pages range:
5 - 19
Volume number:


Animal welfare is of growing concern in many countries. The objective of
this article is to discuss why there are differing definitions and
approaches to the assessment and improvement of animal welfare, whether
differences matter and where there is general agreement in current
scientific concepts. Furthermore, future directions regarding on-farm
welfare improvement are proposed. It is generally agreed that animal
welfare refers to the multi-faceted physical as well as mental state of
the individual animal and can range from very good to very poor.

In order to cover the multitude of relevant aspects, different
approaches, and thus welfare definitions, are used. They commonly do not
contradict each other, but approach welfare from slightly different
perspectives or with different focal points. For the assessment of
welfare, a broad number of indicators must be used that may be either
animal- or resource- and management-based. In terms of validity,
animal-based indicators are to be preferred, but due to feasibility
aspects, often a mixture of different types of indicators are
recommendable and used. The selection of individual welfare indicators
is, however, not only based on scientific and feasibility criteria, but
is also value-dependent. This similarly applies to the interpretation of
conflicting results regarding different measures. Transparency about
the decision-making concerning measure selection and interpretation is
therefore crucial. When deciding about acceptable welfare levels,
various human interests come on board, generating a societal debate. The
practical welfare assessment must be reliable in order to be useful and
trustworthy, which requires considerable efforts. The assessment can
serve different purposes, but most importantly provides poultry farmers
useful information and starting points for improvement. Many
multifactorial welfare problems can only successfully be tackled by
farm-specific, longer-term optimisation processes. Joint learning and
knowledge sharing in networks of farmers together with other experts is a
very promising approach for this. While further knowledge about risk
factors for welfare problems is still needed, practice-led innovations
should also be stimulated. Moreover, continued methodical research is
necessary to improve the choice and practicability of valid animal-based
indicators for application in commercial production systems.

Last updated on 2021-15-09 at 11:59