The National Chicken Council on Monday released the latest revisions to it animal welfare guidelines and audit checklist, intended to help producers ensure safety and well-being of their birds.
Periodically revised, the guidelines cover every phase of a chicken's life and offer current science-based recommendations for the proper treatment and humane care of broiler chickens. They were first adopted in 1999 and have been widely adopted.
The latest guideline and audit revision incorporates new parameters to improve bird welfare, including a whistleblower protection, more assistance for training programs for proper handling, more documentation and monitoring of various practices and a more streamlined auditing tool for ease of auditing, NCC says.
"The chicken industry has come together on a specific set of expectations that will continue to ensure the birds we raise are taken care of with the highest standards starting at hatch," said NCC President Mike Brown.
The guidelines were updated with assistance from an academic advisory panel consisting of poultry welfare experts and veterinarians from across the United States.
"We are very pleased with the inclusion of many of the panel's recommendations into this revision," said Sarge Bilgili, Ph.D., professor and extension poultry scientist, Auburn University, 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."
According to NCC, the new guidelines also: increase 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 the chickens are properly monitored for healthy legs; require stunning procedures to be more effective; change the audit scoring system to emphasize each step on the process from the hatchery to the processing plant; and highlight the implications of non-conformances to the guidelines.
View the new Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist.