The conditions under which meat chickens are housed and the way that they are managed during their growing phase, transportation and slaughter are set down in several government/industry endorsed Model Codes of Practice designed to safeguard their welfare.
The industry has developed a model welfare audit program, which covers hatchery, breeder rearing, breeder laying, growing, and the pick-up, transport and processing sectors. Several companies have incorporated elements of this welfare audit in their own quality plans. All companies incorporate elements of good practice for bird welfare in their grower manuals.
High standards of bird welfare and high levels of flock performance and economic performance are not incompatible – quite the contrary, they go hand in hand. It simply makes good economic sense as well as being in the bird’s best interests to ensure that flocks are maintained in an environment in which they are thermally comfortable, protected from injury, fed optimally and kept healthy.
Therefore, all measures described elsewhere to ensure that chickens are kept in conditions which optimise their comfort (in terms of temperature, humidity, air flow and air quality), in which they are provided with water, shelter, and a high quality diet that exactly matches their physiological needs, and which optimise their health have just as important effect in terms of bird welfare as they do on the overall efficiency of the farming operation.
When producing chicken meat in a welfare-friendly manner it is also important that the birds receive prompt and appropriate medication and treatment to prevent and treat diseases if this should become necessary, and that they do not suffer any unnecessary pain, distress, fear or physical injury. It is also important that sick or injured birds that can not be adequately or successfully treated are culled quickly and in a humane manner so that they do not suffer. While the chickens are reared specifically for human consumption and they therefore at some stage have to be slaughtered, the industry is mindful that they should be slaughtered in a humane manner, and all birds are stunned (rendered insensible to pain) prior to slaughter.
Industry has three strong motives for looking after the birds in their care in a welfare-friendly manner:
Out of respect for the birds themselves, so they do not suffer.
So that they grow as well and efficiently as possible and they are not damaged in the process.
In recognition of and respect of consumer, retailer and community attitudes and expectations with respect to the humane treatment of livestock farmed specifically for their consumption.