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Evaluation of Meat Chicken Regulations - AW1144

Description
From July 1st 2010 new welfare rules for meat chickens came into effect across the EU through Directive 2007/43/EC. The Directive has a number of practical implications for the poultry production industry, the enforcement bodies and the consumer – including requirements for collection of 'trigger level' information associated with bird welfare, keeper training (in physiology, feeding needs, animal behaviour, the concept of stress, practical aspects of poultry handling, catching, loading and transport, emergency care, emergency killing and culling and biosecurity measures), record keeping, poultry meat labelling, statutory inspections and provision of codes of management practice. The Directive also provides criteria for lighting patterns, ventilation, air quality parameters, humidity and temperature, litter quality, house noise levels, cleaning schedules, inspection intervals for animals, farm plans, alarm systems and feed withdrawal times. These requirements were implemented from 30/06/10 in England - but are not applied to parent flocks, hatcheries, extensive indoor production (a legally defined category rarely applied commercially), free-range or organic birds and producers with <500 birds. In line with the requirements of the Directive , a number of animal based outcome parameters are used to identify possible on-farm welfare problems. Cumulative daily mortality rate and seven post-mortem conditions are monitored. The post-mortem conditions are: 1) Ascites/Oedema, 2) Cellulitis & Dermatitis, 3) Dead on arrival, 4) Emaciation, 5) Joint Lesions/Arthritis, 6) Septicaemia/Respiratory and 7) Total rejections. A trigger level will also be set for Foot Pad Dermatitis (FPD). Where levels of the trigger level conditions exceed a certain threshold, the keeper of the animals and Animal Health will be alerted.

There are pragmatic risks associated with the changes resulting from implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC - these could include; Increased enforcement costs, an increase in imports from other countries (which already account for 30% of the overall market supply) and that UK producers may go out of business due to increased production costs and reduced competitive position (UK already has a small cost disadvantage compared to other EU countries, and a considerable disadvantage compared to Brazil and the USA). It is also possible that there will be no net improvement in bird welfare despite the changes promoted by the Directive.

As well as potential costs, there are potential benefits. The Directive, through the use of agreed trigger levels, supplies assessment tools to target underperforming producers. Through use of the trigger level tools, AH may be better able to target their resources and improve overall bird welfare. Through this, and through the direct effects of implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC, there may be measurable improvement in the welfare of chickens kept for meat. There may be potentially also be improvements in the quality of management of meat chickens through the implementation of the post mortem pathology trigger level analysis, through training and through increased attention to lighting, ventilation, record keeping and the management practices promoted in the Directive.

A post-implementation review (PIR) including animal welfare assessment and socio-economic analysis is required to assess the potential costs, benefits and risks described and associated with implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC. This work is addressed in the work to be carried out in Objectives 1 to 12 to be undertaken by teams from the Univerities of Bristol (Animal Welfare Science), Reading (Agricultural Ecomonics and Strategy), Cardiff (Social Science, impact studies on producers and consumers) and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (Analysis of historical slaughterhouse data and comparison with recent and trigger level data). The project tasks are described under 10 Objectives which address the following areas; Creation and management of an advisory group, assessment of the effectiveness of the meat chicken welfare trigger system through comparison of measures assessed on a range of farms and of the trigger level measures made at slaughter. Determination of whether from the inception of Directive 2007/43/ there have been measurable alterations in the welfare of meat chickens through analysis of pre and post implementation data (partly based on analysis of a large existing benchmark data set from VLA). An assessment of the effectiveness of enforcement body activity and communications. Assessment of the uptake and impact of keeper training and Grandfather rights. A determination of the effect on the structure of the meat chicken industry of the implementation of the requirements of the Directive. An Impact assessment of the UK industry decision to set a maximum stocking density of 39kg/m2 and 42kg/m2 in relation to the overall impact of the implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC and an assessment of benefits realisation. An examination of whether there are additional non-legislative strategies which could be used to further improve the welfare of meat chickens, a study of the experience of other Member States in the implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC, and the production of the first draft of a Review Stage Impact Assessment, and a final report to DEFRA by 31/5/2013.
Objective
Objective 01 To set up an advisory group which will provide guidance on the linked tasks in this proposal, whose members will assist in planning the practical steps outlined in the planned objectives, and who will also help ensure that the findings address the post-implementation review reporting requirements, and are of value to the producer, the legislator, industry and the consumer. To ensure that independent producers are included in the study, a spread of producers representative of the range of broiler production in the UK will be approached by the project team (following discussion of this requirement with the advisory group). Three meetings to be held. Costs of the advisory group meetings will be minimised by holding the meetings at regional centres where the majority of the stakeholders are based.

Objective 02 An assessment of the effectiveness of the meat chicken welfare trigger system now in place in identifying poor on-farm welfare through comparison of measures assessed on farm and trigger level measures made at slaughter. To determine whether from the inception of Directive 2007/43/EC (30th June 2010) there have been measurable alterations in the welfare of meat chickens (the actual ‘adoption date’ or transposition date was in fact some time after 30th June and the start date for analysis will be determined by the transposition date). On-farm inspections will also include input measures so that compliance with the legislation is assessed (and not simply assumed) and so that assessment of basic compliance is included in the farm visits, following standard procedures completed by Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) . This objective will provide efficient use of the opportunities for all disciplines to visit the producers at the same visit (rather than farm assessment visits followed subsequently by economic, implementation, grandfather rights and social science questionnaire visits).

Objective 03 An assessment of the effectiveness of enforcement body activity and communications AHVLA, Food Standards Agency Operations Group and Local Authorities). Assessment of the uptake and impact of keeper training and Grandfather rights (to include compliance, administrative and training costs, and whether the current funding process makes it difficult to take up training). By combining the travel to farms and to question AHVLA and FSA and LA staff, and by combining the opportunities for all disciplines to visit these participants at the same visit, and by reduction in the number of visits to regulators (and rather use of telephone and email questionnaires, rather than high reliance on face to face visits) will result in streamlining of the linked work tasks.

Objective 04 Production of an interim report by January 2012.

Objective 05 Determination of the effect on the structure of the meat chicken industry of the implementation of the requirements of Directive 2007/43/EC, including production levels and imports.

Objective 06 Impact assessment of the UK industry decision to set a maximum stocking density of 39kg/m2 in relation to the overall impact of the implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC. It may be possible (and would be advantageous) to visit farms stocking at the higher density at the time of the project if this proves to be possible. This being the case, it would be the intention to evaluate the impact in terms of industry competitiveness and meat chicken welfare of a maximum stocking density of both 39kg/m2 and 42kg/m2 using the data collected from farm and slaughter of birds at both stocking densities. The option to explore production at 42kg/m2 will rely on negotiation with producers in Ireland – should this not be possible – it is anticipated that it will be possible to examine production at a restricted number of farms in countries with which the group has contacts in the EU (France, Italy or Netherlands) and through the contacts available through the Defra Broiler Core Stakeholder Group.

Objective 07 An assessment of benefits realisation. Using the criteria laid out in the initial Impact Assessment and the potential benefits identified (including those for consumers).

Objective 08 An examination of whether there are additional non-legislative strategies which could be used to further improve the welfare of meat chickens.

Objective 09 A study of the experience of other Member States in the implementation of Directive 2007/43/EC. How far, how fast, and with what specific trigger levels and enforcement criteria have other member states adopted this Directive? Achieved by direct liaison with state officials from EU members, and through this an understanding of how Directive 2007/43/EC in being implemented in these countries.

Objective 10 Production of the first draft of a Review Stage Impact Assessment, and a final report which will be submitted to DEFRA by 31/8/2013.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW1144 Final Report   (4061k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2014

Cost: £296,400
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Reading, Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA), Cardiff University, University of Bristol
Keywords
On-Farm              
Poultry              
Welfare              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare