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Balancing Production and Welfare

by 5m Editor
1 August 2003, at 12:00am

By Jackie Wepruk, Faunus Consulting for Susan Church, Manager Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) Association - This article provides an overview and link to a report on broiler chickens and complex animal care issues.

Broiler chickens have been selected for fast growth and efficient feed conversion. In 1976 it took 63 days for a broiler to reach a market weight of 2 kilos. In 2001 it took just 35 days. Improved growth and feed efficiency has resulted in:
  • Birds make better use of feed materials, thereby reducing waste;
  • Poultry meat is more affordable.
However, fast growth rates have been blamed for a host of broiler welfare concerns. The broiler industry has attempted to address these concerns through genetic selection and careful management strategies.

Modern broilers require exceptional management to ensure bird health. “Birds are sensitive due to genetic selection for increased yields,” says Detlef Onderka an Alberta poultry pathologist.

Dr. Joy Mench, Department of Animal Science University of California suggests, “One might want to ask - is it acceptable to breed (or grow) a bird that has to be so carefully managed to stay healthy.” However, through careful management, plant condemnation rates (an indicator of bird health and well-being) have been reduced over the years, says Don Sungaard, an Alberta chicken producer.

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Source: Alberta Farm Animal Care - April 2003