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Doctoral thesis, 2022

Good enough? Animal welfare in organic poultry production

Göransson, Lina;

Abstract

Outdoor access, reduced stocking densities, natural light, no beak trimming, and ‘slow-growing’ broilers provided with raised sitting areas, are some of the main features of organic poultry production intended to improve bird welfare. On-farm studies are important to increase our knowledge of animal welfare in commercial production. In this thesis, on-farm studies were performed on eight organic broiler farms and 11 organic laying hen farms in Sweden, to assess the present animal welfare situation in terms of housing, bird health and behaviour, and free-ranging. The findings were assessed in relation to different animal welfare definitions and relevant organic standards. The results show that important welfare issues, such as severe feather pecking in laying hens and gait impairment in broilers, can be found in organic poultry production. Outdoor areas generally offered limited protection in the form of vegetation and/or artificial shelters, and most birds remained close to the house when ranging. The broilers were motivated as well as physically capable of perching, but the available space on raised sitting areas was limited. Behavioural observations indicated that the laying hens and broilers were fearful of humans. The emphasis on providing opportunities to perform natural behaviours in organic production may improve bird welfare by promoting pleasant, rather than merely avoiding unpleasant, experiences. However, in order to influence poultry welfare in practice and not only in theory, the content of organic standards must transfer all the way to commercial farms. This can to a certain extent be managed by the individual farmer, but other undertakings might be obstructed by aspects contained within the structure of modern poultry production.

Keywords

laying hen; broiler chicken; slow-growing; health; natural behaviour; positive welfare; free-ranging; environmental enrichment; flock size

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae

2022, number: 2022:61
ISBN: 978-91-7760-997-1, eISBN: 978-91-7760-998-8
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/119323