The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended that cages should be avoided in the poultry sector to enhance animal welfare.
The agency is calling for alternatives to cages to be found for both broiler chickens and laying hens.
Two scientific opinions by EFSA scientists, both published today (Tuesday, February 21), include advice on space; density of animals; lighting; dust; noise; litter; and structures, such as elevated platforms.
In a statement today, the EFSA said: “Our experts assessed husbandry systems used in the EU for broiler chickens and laying hens, and identified hazards to which birds are exposed to and the associated consequences for their welfare.”
The scientists outlined ways to assess the birds’ welfare based on animal responses, and they proposed ways to prevent or mitigate negative welfare consequences that they identified.
Both scientific opinions cover the entire production cycle, from breeding and raising young birds to farming broilers and laying hens.
The scientists also addressed questions that were highlighted in a European Citizens Initiative called ‘End the Cage Age’, which was submitted to the European Commission in 2020.
For laying hens, the EFSA recommended that birds should be housed in cage-free systems, and protocols to measure welfare traits should be defined.
Flocks should be housed with easily accessible elevated platforms and/or perches to allow simultaneous resting for all birds, and to enable birds to avoid each other.
In layer breeders, the proportion of males to females should be less than 1:10, and male birds should be selected for reduced aggression.
For broilers, the EFSA recommends that the growth rate of broilers should be limited to 50g/day. As well as that, stocking density should be “substantially reduced”.
Broilers should also be housed in cage-free systems. Ammonia concentration in the barn should be limited to 15 parts per million (ppm).
Fertilised eggs should be transported instead of day-old chicks.
The commission requested these two scientific opinions as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy.
The opinions will, according to the EFSA, provide a scientific basis for the ongoing revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation.
A legislative proposal from the commission for new animal welfare rules is expected to be brought forward in the second half of 2023.
As part of that revision, the EFSA has already published scientific opinions on the welfare of pigs and the welfare of farmed animals during transport.
Further opinions on the welfare of calves, dairy cattle, and various farmed bird species are also in the works, the EFSA said.
Poultry in TAMS
In the new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), announced yesterday (Monday, February 20), the pig and poultry capital investment scheme has been set an investment ceiling of €500,000.
Tranche 1 of the scheme will open tomorrow (Wednesday, February 22), with solar panels on farms being the first available investment. The other investments will become available on a phased basis during Tranche 1 which will close on June 16.