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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Associations between animal welfare indicators and Campylobacter spp. in broiler chickens under commercial settings: A case study

Alpigiani, Irene; Abrahantes, Jose Cortinas; Michel, Virginie; Huneau-Salauen, Adeline; Chemaly, Marianne; Keeling, Linda Jane; Gervelmeyer, Andrea; Bacci, Cristina; Brindani, Franco; Bonardi, Silvia; Berthe, Franck


Few studies have previously investigated how poor animal welfare might be associated with infection of zoonotic pathogens in humans. This paper assesses the predictive value of the presence of Campylobacter spp. in broiler chicken flocks when animal-based measures related to footpad dermatitis, hock burns, body lesions and arthritis are identified under commercial conditions (high density). The study population included 32 flocks analysed on farm and at slaughter, slaughtered between April and August 2008 in six different slaughter plants in Brittany, France. Welfare and health indicators are those indicated by the European legislation and sampling was carried out in the framework of the European baseline survey on the prevalence of Campylobacter in broiler chicken. Caecal contents, sampled both on farm and at slaughter, and carcass skin samples from the neck and breast at slaughter, were investigated for the presence of Campylobacter spp. Logistic models/classification trees were used to estimate the probability of the presence (or absence) of a specific foodbome pathogen in a flock based on specific animal-based measures (or combinations of measures) in order to study the potential relationship between welfare indicators and foodbome pathogen prevalence/incidence levels. On farm, flocks with more than 25% animals with severe lesions on between 25 and 50% of the footpad are predicted to be Campylobacter-positive whereas flocks where less than 13 individuals have arthritis are predicted to be Campylobacter-negative. The error rate on farm and at slaughter was 10 and 4% respectively indicating good predicting abilities. A poor welfare environment may result in stress, which reduces chicken immunocompetence making them more susceptible to Campylobacter spp. An infection with Campylobacter spp may lead to impaired defence and susceptibility to other pathogens which may result in greater intestinal excretion. Poor welfare and high growing rate lead to digestive troubles that lead to litter humidity. Litter humidity that, among other things, causes footpad dermatitis may also influence the horizontal transmission of the Campylobacter spp. infection due to the normal coprophagic behaviour of poultry. Reducing welfare problems by a better management of rearing conditions would not only improve broiler welfare, but it would also decrease the risks of Campylobacter contamination, of carcass condemnations and of economic loss for the poultry industry.


Chicken meat; Animal-based measures; Campylobacter spp; Public health; Animal welfare; Contact dermatitis; Gross meat inspection

Published in

Preventive Veterinary Medicine
2017, volume: 147, pages: 186-193

Authors' information

Alpigiani, I.
University of Parma
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health
Berthe, Franck
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

Associated SLU-program

Centre of Excellence in Animal Welfare Science

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

Publication Identifiers


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