Guidance to help farmers follow the law on the welfare of meat (broiler) chickens.

First published:
22 February 2016
Last updated:

Introduction

Implementation of EU Council Directive 2007/43/EC laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production (broilers).

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 implement provisions of the Directive and for the first time provide detailed rules governing the conditions under which meat chickens must be kept. All previous legislation will continue to operate.

A maximum stocking density of 39kg/m² has been introduced which, allows a consistent GB inspection and enforcement framework to operate within slaughterhouses and on farm, it also defines minimum management and training requirements.

The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 removed the ban on beak trimming of chicks intended for meat production to allow for routine beak trimming of day old chicks using the infra red beak technique only.

Scope

The Directive applies to conventionally reared meat chickens unless they are on a holding with fewer than 500 birds. The Directive does not apply to breeding chickens, free-range (if marketed as such), organic chickens (if marketed as such), extensive indoor (if marketed as such) or those who keep fewer than 500 birds.

Information on Certain Marketing Standards for Poultry meat relating to the EC Council Regulation 1906/90 and Commission Regulation 1538/91 is available.

The welfare provisions demonstrate best practice and science which, could be applied to all systems of meat chicken production. Therefore all keepers of meat chickens, regardless of system of production, are encouraged to read this information. 

Enforcement

We are working with keepers, and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), to assess the welfare of conventional meat chickens against the requirements of the EU Directive.

The following principles apply when enforcing EU Council Directive 2007/43/EC:

  • similar to the current process of enforcement of animal welfare rules 
  • non-compliance will increase chances of risk based inspections by APHA
  • enforcement will be proportionate

Animal Health will work with keepers to assess the welfare of conventional meat chickens against the requirements of the EU Directive and rectify breaches.

Data collected by the Food Standards Agency on certain conditions may trigger an on farm inspection by APHA.

The levels for a possible inspection by APHA have been set on the basis of national average data and a study with the industry. The conditions that will be assessed at the slaughterhouse will be:

  • cumulative daily mortality rate
  • ascites and oedema
  • cellulitis and dermatitis
  • dead on arrival
  • emaciation
  • joint lesions or arthritis
  • septicaemia and respiratory
  • total rejections

Triggering an on farm welfare inspection by APHA builds on existing processes but allows a more consistent approach across all slaughterhouses. Trigger levels will be re-evaluated on the basis of on-going data collection and analysis.

Food Business Operators are encouraged to record foot pad dermatitis at slaughterhouses using a standardised scoring system.

In addition, local authorities enforce a range of other animal health and welfare legislation on farm.

Record keeping

All chickens must be inspected at least 2 times a day. Special attention should be paid to signs indicating a reduced level of animal welfare or animal health.

As required by EU Council Directive 2007/43/EC records will need to be retained for at least 3 years and must be available for inspection. For each house of a holding there will need to be a record of the following:

  • number of chickens placed 
  • useable area (this is defined as a littered area accessible to the chickens at any time. Useable area should be the internal area of a house. This excludes intrusions such as a control room, feed pans and feed tracks if the area under them is not accessible to birds. If feed pans and feed tracks are lifted as birds grow, in accordance with best practice, and the area underneath them is accessible to birds then this can be included as part of the ‘useable area’) 
  • breed of the chickens, if known 
  • number of birds found dead, with an indication of cause if known
  • number of birds culled, with the reason for culling
  • number of chickens present following the removal for sale or for slaughter 

Environment

Drinkers

Drinkers shall be positioned and maintained in such a way that spillage is minimised.

Feeding

Feed shall be either continuously available or be meal fed.

Feed must not be withdrawn from chickens more than 12 hours before the expected slaughter time.

Litter

All chickens must have permanent access to litter which is dry and friable on the surface.

Ventilation and heating

Ventilation must be sufficient to avoid overheating of birds. Keepers must have systems that control heat build-up in a house to minimise heat stress in hot weather. Systems should ensure an adequate number of air changes and a suitable cooling system.

Ventilation (if necessary in combination with heating systems) must be sufficient to control house humidity. Ensuring that the litter can be dry and friable during all weathers.

Noise

Sound levels experienced by the birds must be minimised. For example, fans, feeders and other mechanical equipment will need to be constructed, placed, operated and maintained in a way that causes the least noise.

Light

From 7 days to 3 days before the foreseen depopulation, light intensity must be > 20 lux (measured at bird head height) in at least 80% of the useable area.

Birds must be given a dark period of > 6 hours in total with at least 1 uninterrupted period that is > 4 hours, excluding dimming.

It is recognised that at higher light intensities, group behaviour after dark periods can modify bird behaviour and lead to some anti-social behaviours and back-scratching. The producer must be aware of this and manage it. If a problem persists, a temporary reduction in light intensity is permitted but only following veterinary advice. Veterinary advice will need to be written and specific to each flock. The written veterinary advice will need to be available for Animal Health if they carry out an on farm inspection.

Measurements of light intensity can be made by following an imaginary W through the house and taking a series of readings.

Cleaning

After final depopulation is carried out and before a new flock is introduced into the house:

  • all litter must be removed
  • buildings, equipment or utensils which have been in contact with the chickens must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected 
  • approved disinfectants at the recommended strength must be used to clean buildings, equipment and utensils 
  • clean litter must be provided for each flock 
  • the floors will need to be dry before adding new bedding

Inspection

All chickens must be inspected at least 2 times a day. Special attention should be paid to signs indicating a reduced level of animal welfare and/or animal health.

Chickens that are seriously injured or show evident signs of a health disorder are likely to suffer, and must receive appropriate treatment or be culled immediately. A veterinarian must be contacted whenever necessary.

Mortality, with the reason if known, and culls, with the reason, must be recorded.

Training

All keepers of meat chickens will need to demonstrate that they have the necessary competence to ensure the welfare of birds in their care.

All keepers of meat chickens will need to demonstrate that they have the necessary competence to ensure the welfare of birds in their care. All keepers need to ensure that they are trained and this includes anyone who is solely responsible for the care of birds at any time, for example part time workers.

Those that are not solely responsible for the day to day care of birds but are supervised will not need to be trained (including catchers). Training can be done in 3 ways:

  • formal training
  • Poultry Meat Training Initiative
  • Grandfather Rights

Formal training

Keepers will need to take formal training that matches National Occupation Standards. These are set by Lantra (the Sector Skills Council for environmental and land-based industries) and awarded and delivered by an accredited body. The relevant awarding body is City & Guilds NPTC which is the largest nationally recognised awarding body within the land based sector.

In house training will be accepted as equivalent if the course reaches the standards set by Lantra and are awarded by an accredited body. Accreditation can be sought through City & Guilds NPTC. The process of accreditation by City & Guilds NPTC can take up to 6 months. For information on accreditation of in house courses, contact City & Guilds NPTC on 02476 857300.

Poultry Meat Training Initiative

The Poultry Meat Training Initiative is an industry initiative. It was established to encourage the poultry meat industry to complete formal training and to provide a system of recording of training. For more information please go to Poultry Meat Initiative.

Signing up to The Poultry Meat Training Initiative means that an individual commits to completing the Level 2 NVQ in Livestock Production (Poultry). This will soon be replaced by the Level 2 Work-based Diploma in Agriculture (Poultry Production). In addition to this learners will need to complete on-going short courses which are delivered by approved providers or approved internal tutors.

The Poultry Passport is a secure on-line training recording system available to companies and individuals in the poultry sector, which records the mandatory training.  The Poultry passport allows the user instant access to their records which are fully maintained and updated on their behalf, on a continual basis.

Welsh Government encourages all keepers of meat chicken to sign up to the Poultry Meat Training Initiative.

Grandfather Rights

The Grandfather Rights scheme acknowledges that experience can be equivalent to completing a formal qualification.

To qualify for Grandfather Rights, a keeper must be at least 21 years of age. They must have a minimum of 5 years experience of keeping meat chickens in the last 10 years. They must have never been convicted of any animal welfare offence and understand and be competent in the following:

  • annex I & II of Council Directive 2007/43/EC 
  • physiology, in particular drinking and feeding needs; animal behaviour and the concept of stress 
  • the practical aspects of the careful handling of chickens, and catching, loading and transport 
  • emergency care for chickens, emergency killing and culling 
  • preventive bio-security measures

Grandfather Rights can be applied for by completing a Meat Chicken Notification Form. Keepers will receive a form from Animal and Plant Health Agency, which will be pre-populated based on details contained in the GB Poultry register.

If any details on the form are incorrect keepers should take this opportunity to amend the details so that the Poultry Register can be updated. The form can also be used to notify Animal Health of an intention to stock above 33 kg/m2.