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New Zealand's broiler welfare on track

A recent study has concluded that New Zealand's broiler welfare standards are equal to or better than those found elsewhere.

The study, undertaken jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and AgResearch, with help from the Poultry Industry Association, was conducted at 36 farms over three years.

A MAF press release described local broiler conditions as 'world class'.

“The leg health of NZ broilers is better than birds in the UK, Denmark and Sweden and overall the welfare is world-class,” says MAF animal welfare programme manager Cheryl O'Connor.

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.

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.

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.

But not everyone is impressed with the results of the study. Soil & Health Association spokesman Steffan Browning says that there are still far more humane options available for rearing chickens.

Editor WorldPoultry

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