Broiler production in Flanders, Belgium: current situation and producers' opinions about animal welfare

Frank Tuyttens, F. Vanhonacker, W. Verbeke

    Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan tijdschriftA1: Web of Science-artikel


    The aim of this paper is to provide up-to-date information about the status of broiler production in Flanders (the northern region of Belgium) and the opinion of Flemish broiler producers on animal welfare. Our review revealed that intensification of Flemish broiler production has continued, as characterised by a decreasing number of production plants with up-scaled production. Results of a quantitative survey of Flemish broiler producers showed that the typical broiler house is 21 years old and houses 35,000 mixed-sex Ross broilers indoors on wood shavings or straw. The commonly-used modal management implies thinning one-fifth of the flock at the age of 35 days. The remaining broilers are slaughtered when they are 42 days old and weigh an average of 2.4 kg. The median unassisted mortality rate is 2% and another 0.5% are culled. Further scaling-up of production units is not viewed favourably by producers, particularly as related to consumer acceptance. Producers state they place great importance on animal welfare and do not agree that broiler welfare is poor. A small minority of producers plan to invest in improving broiler welfare in the near future. They see few advantages in paying more attention to broiler welfare or providing outdoor access to improve their public image and consumer acceptance. Producers define animal welfare mainly in terms of good health, feeding and housing and consider aspects that relate to the birds' ability to express appropriate behaviour as less important. We discuss how this concept of 'animal welfare' corresponds to that reported by other people with farming backgrounds. Unfortunately this belief contradicts the perception of citizens and consumers and the assumptions underlying the proposed European standards for monitoring farm animal welfare as developed by the Welfare Quality (R) consortium.
    TijdschriftWorlds Poultry Science Journal
    Pagina's (van-tot)343-354
    StatusGepubliceerd - 2014

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