Feedback sought on draft code of welfare for broiler chickens

27 September 2009

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) has completed a review of the 2003 code of welfare for broiler (meat) chickens and a draft code has been released today for public consultation.

A key change is the addition of standards for free range broiler chickens which reflects the increasing number of broilers produced with access to the outdoors. The draft code would now apply to all broiler chickens, regardless of the housing system used.

NAWAC reviewed the requirements for stocking density last year and while it decided then that current stocking levels were appropriate, the review highlighted the importance of appropriate management of the internal shed environment.

Dr John Hellström, Chair of NAWAC, says "Lameness and ill-health in broiler chickens is affected by a complex interaction between the litter, temperature and ventilation in the broiler house environment. A key aim of this draft code is to ensure that growers maintain chickens at a stocking density that is appropriate for the environment in each shed, and age and stage of the broiler chickens".

NAWAC is now proposing that stocking density must be managed in combination with litter quality, and air temperature, humidity and quality, to minimise lameness, injury and illness.

"The Committee also recognises the important contribution that breeding makes to broiler welfare problems such as lameness. Broiler breeding is not controlled by growers so it will be addressed in a new code targeted at broiler breeder companies" says Dr Hellström.

The review of this code was a high priority for NAWAC in view of the fact that New Zealanders consume more chicken than any other meat and over 80 million broiler chickens are grown each year.

Minimum standards in the draft code cover stockmanship; food and water; housing and equipment; lighting; ventilation; temperature; litter management; stocking densities; behavioural needs; catching, loading and transport; humane destruction and hatchery management.

The draft code is available at http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/biosec/consult and the closing date for submissions is 8 November 2010. Anyone making submissions should do so by email to awsubmission@maf.govt.nz or in writing to:

NAWAC Secretary
MAF Biosecurity New Zealand
PO Box 2526
Wellington 6140

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