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New Zealand broiler welfare standards world-class

DATE 19 September 2006

New Zealand broiler welfare standards are world-class

Research into the welfare of commercial broiler chickens in New Zealand has found that welfare standards are equal or superior to that of broilers kept elsewhere.

The aim of the research was to identify appropriate welfare indicators for broilers and then apply them to quantify the welfare status of New Zealand commercial broiler flocks.

“We wanted to be confident that the standards of welfare specified in codes and practised on New Zealand farms were acceptable. It was found that New Zealand standards are generally higher than those overseas,” says Dr Cheryl O’Connor, MAF animal welfare programme manager.

“These results show that leg health of New Zealand broilers is better than birds in the UK, Denmark and Sweden and that overall the welfare of our commercial broiler birds is world-class.”

The mortality of birds was found to be at the lower end of industry levels overseas. Leg cull mortality was about half that reported in two recent UK studies and the proportion of birds with severe leg weakness was about one quarter that reported in the UK, Denmark and Sweden.

The joint study, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), was conducted by AgResearch Ltd, with assistance and support from the Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand (PIANZ).

A range of measures were used to assess welfare including: the incidence and causes of mortalities and culls; skin disorders of the feet, hocks and breasts; gait score and the incidence of back scratches; birds dead on arrival and rejects.

Research was carried out on 36 New Zealand housed commercial broiler farms in each season and within the context of the typical management of the birds.

A Broiler Welfare Research Committee was formed to oversee the research programme. The committee was made up of representatives from public and private research agencies, the poultry industry, poultry veterinarians and representatives from the major broiler companies in New Zealand.

The research is based on methods used in a Bristol University survey that has benchmarked broiler welfare in the UK and is internationally credible.


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