Major welfare improvement for chicken linked to safer meat

Major welfare improvement for chicken linked to safer meat

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A major change to the RSPCA welfare standards will improve the welfare of millions of chickens on the RSPCA Assured scheme - and should also make meat safer.

A procedure known as ‘thinning’ (where a proportion of chickens are removed from a shed for slaughter earlier than the rest) is no longer allowed for animal welfare reasons on farms rearing to RSPCA standards.

Also, a study by the European Food Safety Authority  reported that thinning is linked to increased rates of campylobacter in chickens.

The bacteria is reported to be the dominant cause of food poisoning in the UK - estimated to be responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning every year, and four out of five cases result from contaminated poultry according to the Food Standards Agency.

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“Our ban on thinning is a major step forward for the welfare of chickens.
“The RSPCA is leading the way on farm animal welfare by setting these pioneering standards for indoor reared chickens.
“Consumers concerned about farm animal welfare and who want to make a difference should look for the RSPCA Assured label.”

Dr Marc Cooper, chicken welfare specialist at the RSPCA

Thinning is commonly used within the chicken industry to maximise the number of birds that can be reared within a shed over a given period of time.

The process involves rearing the birds to the maximum stocking density permitted and then removing a proportion of them to lower the density.

This can take place several times before all the birds are finally removed from the shed.

It can be a stressful experience for the birds as their feed is removed to allow catching teams to round-up the birds more easily.

Also the temperature inside the shed can drop, particularly during the winter, as teams of catchers enter.

If you would like to know more about how chickens are reared for meat, check out our chicken welfare page.

Date: 11 Jan 2016