By Sarah Linde B. Sc (Agr), Alberta Farm Animal Care
Considering broiler farming is becoming one of the fastest growing sectors in the agriculture industry consumer perspectives on animal welfare practices are often as important if not more important than product quality. In a recent study in Poultry Science, outlined four husbandry factors which influence animal welfare and how they relate the meat quality in broiler birds.
The key areas of husbandry that were explored were: diet, enrichment, stocking density and genetics. Notably, diet was the most heavily researched area of husbandry, as it has the clearest relation to meat quality and animal welfare. Pasture and forage availability has shown a remarkable change in birds antioxidant system as well as a darker more intense colour in meat.
Enrichment was an interesting area to look at, enrichment methods including outdoor access and perches were both studied. While enrichment tools didn’t overall have positive effects on meat quality, enrichment was identified as an important welfare factor for the consumer. This should be considered as a vital key for the social acceptability of broiler farming. Consumer buying power is becoming more focused on how that animal was cared for through their full life cycle.
Stocking density and genetics have expected research results. Lower stocking densities directly resulted in an increase in meat quality as well as welfare. New and evolving genetics have also been introduced to the market which show increases in meat quality for the consumer.
Overall, broiler husbandry and meat quality show a strong link throughout the lifecycle of the bird. These results should be a significant indicator for producers in their management practices not only for meat quality but for the consumers opinion on animal care and welfare.
Submit articles to Kendra Juurlink at [email protected]. If you have any questions, please e-mail Kendra or call the Alberta Farm Animal Care office at 403-652-5111