The welfare of millions of broiler chickens could be improved thanks to an educational video to help farmers identify and encourage positive welfare in broilers, according to the University of Bristol in the U.K.
The video was created following collaborative work by The Co-op, its chicken supplier, Two Sisters Food Group and research partners the University of Bristol and FAI Farms.
While geared toward the U.K. industry, this research highlighted gaps in the current training provided to new broiler farmers: (1) regarding the importance of observing broiler behavior and (2) how farmers could improve welfare by encouraging positive behaviors.
Positive behaviors are natural behaviors that animals are highly motivated to perform, and these create positive experiences for the birds, resulting in enjoyment or pleasure, the University of Bristol said. Providing opportunities to display positive behaviors is an important way to improve the quality of life for animals. Positive behaviors for broilers include wing flapping, running, jumping, dust bathing and scratching at the litter.
The training video captures on-farm footage of broilers performing positive behaviors and describes why these behaviors are important for bird welfare, the announcement said. It then goes on to highlight the importance of litter, describing why maintaining dry and friable litter is not only good for the health of the birds but also acts as another source of environmental enrichment for birds to interact with and perform positive behaviors.
The training video describes how to observe birds and encourages farmers to take the time to simply watch the birds, because this is the best way to understand the behaviors of the birds and can help farmers quickly spot when something is not be quite right, the university said.
Annie Rayner, research manager at FAI Farms and doctoral student at the University of Bristol, said, "Expression of specific behaviors that are important to an animal is crucial in ensuring they have a life worth living. Good farm management is key to providing opportunities for these behaviors. This video is a much-needed resource to train producers in what to look for and to pay attention to the behavior of their birds. With 20 million broilers a week being produced in the U.K. and this video being made available to the entire U.K. industry, we hope that this resource helps towards improving the welfare of millions of birds."
Dr. Siobhan Mullan, senior research fellow in animal welfare at the Bristol Vet School, added, "We have worked with industry partners to produce and evaluate the effectiveness of this evidence-based training video. We are delighted that it will be made widely available through U.K. training courses and hope that, in combination with other initiatives, it will help to deliver real improvements to bird welfare."
The Food Animal Initiative (FAI Farms) is a food sustainability research, data and consultancy business operating within the 3Es framework of economics, environment and ethics. FAI works with some of the world’s leading foodservice and retail companies to adopt better farming practices on land and at sea. Its multidisciplinary team of farmers, veterinarians, data analysts, agriculturalists, auditors and scientists help partners progress toward greater transparency and sustainability in global food supply chains. FAI operates commercially relevant terrestrial and aquaculture production and research and development sites in England, Scotland and Brazil.