Research on the welfare of broiler chickens during transport

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    The objectives are: (a) the development and application of a protocol for the assessment of the welfare of broiler chickens during transport; (b) an inventory of the loading, transporting, and unloading of day-old chicks and broiler chickens in Belgium and the risk factors for their welfare; (c) the evaluation of the feasibility, stumbling blocks and cost/benefits of applying the welfare assessment protocols under commercial circumstances; (d) the evaluation of the effect of animal welfare conditions and other circumstances during transport on meat quality and slaughter yield; (e) the evaluation of actions to remedy the main welfare problems during the transport of day-old chicks and slaughter-age broilers with calculation of the costs and benefits of these actions.

    Research approach
    The goal of the WELLTRANS project is to study the current transport practices (catching, loading, transporting, unloading and waiting at the processing plant) for day-old chicks and broilers in Belgium. We identify the risk factors for animal welfare and we develop a practical methodology to evaluate welfare of broilers during transport. This protocol helps to identify the type and severity of welfare issues during transport of broilers. We use the protocol during several commercial transports to get insight into the constraints, feasibility and costs of applying the protocol in practice. In addition, we examine the effect of animal welfare during transport on meat quality and carcass yield. Finally, we try to find solutions for the main welfare issues during transport of broilers and day-old-chicks with the associated costs and benefits.

    The end result of this project is a protocol to evaluate welfare of broilers during transport that is applicable in commercial settings. This project gives insight into the priorities of welfare improvement of broilers during transport. The chance that the protocol and improvements in animal welfare will be applied in practice is high, because the social-economic feasibility is considered during every aspect of the project. The social relevance of this project is large, as citizens and experts have indicated that welfare improvements for poultry is a priority in their opinion. Transport has been identified as one of the critical stumbling blocks for their welfare. Besides the size of the poultry industry in Belgium, the animals are sensitive to heat stress and metabolic problems during transport due to their genetic predisposition for fast growth. The results of the project will be made available to the government, the industry, to other researchers and to the public. We will use several methods of communication: training for students, conferences, scientific publications, PhD thesis, seminars and workshops, popular publications, newsletters, activity reports, social media and websites.

    Funding provider(s)
    FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de voedselketen en Leefmilieu
    ILVO - Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en voedingsonderzoek

    External partner(s)
    Ugent - Fac. Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen
    Ugent - Fac. Diergeneeskunde
    Verbond voor Pluimvee, Eieren en Konijnen
    Effective start/end date1/02/1331/01/17