NCC releases comprehensive 2014 update to chicken welfare guidelines.
IN 1999, the National Chicken Council (NCC) first developed the "NCC Animal Welfare Guidelines & Audit Checklist," which has been widely adopted by chicken farmers and processors to ensure that all U.S. chickens are being properly cared for and treated humanely.
The guidelines, which are periodically revised, cover every phase of a chicken's life and offer up-to-date, science-based recommendations for the proper treatment and humane care of broiler chickens — those chickens raised for meat, NCC said.
The U.S. national broiler flock is incredibly healthy, according to NCC. Broiler mortality and condemnation rates, the most sensitive indicators of the health and well-being of a flock, are at historical lows.
On Feb. 10, NCC released the 2014 update of the "NCC Animal Welfare Guidelines," which it said has "more substance than ever before" and incorporates new parameters to improve bird welfare.
NCC said the new guidelines include a whistleblower protection, more assistance for training programs on proper handling, more documentation and monitoring of various practices and a more streamlined auditing tool for ease of auditing.
"The chicken industry has come together on a specific set of expectations that will continue to ensure that the birds we raise are taken care of with the highest standards, starting at hatch," NCC president Mike Brown said.
The new guidelines:
* Increase the emphasis on corporate commitment;
* Require internal and external auditing for animal welfare;
* Require increased oversight by veterinarians, service technicians and live production managers;
* Provide more details on acceptable euthanasia practices from the hatchery to the processing plant;
* Provide new requirements to make sure chickens are properly monitored for healthy legs;
* Require stunning procedures to be more effective;
* Change the audit scoring system to emphasize each step in the process from the hatchery to the processing plant, and
* Highlight the implications of non-conformance with the guidelines.
The guidelines were updated with assistance from an academic advisory panel consisting of poultry welfare experts and veterinarians from across the U.S., including Drs. Sarge Bilgili of Auburn University, Michael Hulet of Pennsylvania State University, Joy Mench of the University of California-Davis, Tony Pescatore of the University of Kentucky, Yvonne Thaxton of the University of Arkansas and Bruce Webster of the University of Georgia.
"We are very pleased with the inclusion of many of the panel's recommendations into this revision," said Bilgili, who chaired the academic advisory panel. "As a result, the NCC Animal Welfare Program is significantly improved, and more importantly, the continued well-being of broiler chickens will be assured."
NCC is a nonprofit trade association headquartered in Washington, D.C., that represents the companies that produce and process chickens raised for meat. Member companies of the council account for more than 95% of the chicken sold in the U.S.