Measuring and monitoring animal welfare: transparency in the food product quality chain
Animal welfare is of increasing significance for European consumers and citizens. Previously, agricultural production focused mainly on supply, price and competition but consumers now expect their food to be produced and processed with greater respect for the welfare of the animals.
Food quality is therefore determined by the welfare status of the animals from which it was produced as well as the nature and safety of the end product. Thus, practical welfare improvement strategies and reliable on-farm monitoring systems for assessing the animals' welfare status and evaluating
potential risks are urgently required to accommodate societal concerns and market demands. It is also of paramount importance to define the kind of information that consumers want about the final products and to develop effective strategies for communicating welfare standards to the public.
Generating an intensified dialogue with all factions of society on welfare issues as well as appropriate labelling of animal products and farming systems that offer guarantees about welfare issues and production conditions will, in turn, promote transparency and the societal sustainability
of European agriculture. Welfare is multidimensional. It cannot be measured directly but only inferred from external parameters. Therefore, the integration of the most appropriate specialist expertise in Europe is essential to develop, refine, standardise and intercalibrate welfare monitoring
systems and to identify and validate remedial measures. We must establish a European standard for welfare assessment systems in order to facilitate intra-European trade and marketing. Only then can we harmonise labelling that is informative and relevant to all European consumers.