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Welfare assessment of broilers through examination of haematomas, foot-pad dermatitis, scratches and breast blisters at processing

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Analysis of post mortem lesions is a common means for assessing poultry welfare during rearing and pre-slaughter handling. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of: age, sex, rearing system, total number of birds on-farm, period between catch and slaughter and distance from poultry house to processing plant on the incidence of: foot-pad dermatitis (FPD), breast blisters (BB), bruises and scratches. Rearing systems consisted of extensive indoor (EI) and traditional free-range (TFR). Accordingly, birds were reared under non-intensive conditions (< 12 broilers m–2). In TFR, the maximum flock size was 4,800, birds had continuous daytime access to open-air runs from at least the age of six weeks, and the minimum slaughter age was 81 days; whereas EI rearing was exclusively indoor and birds were slaughtered at 56 days or later. Observations occurred daily after plucking and each bird was examined for: haematomas, scratches, FPD and BB. Logistic regressions were applied to study the relationship between variables. Farms holding between 10,000–20,000 birds were the most affected with FPD, BB and scratches. The oldest birds (91–100 days) showed the greatest incidence of FPD and scratches. TFR birds exhibited the highest prevalence of bruises and lowest of FPD. BB were most common among birds travelling between 31–60 km from poultry farm to processing plant while scratches were more frequent at greater distances (91–120 km). Male broilers were more predisposed to BB than females. Scratching increased relative to the number of hours that birds awaited slaughter. Despite the fact that only a relatively small number of broiler flocks were examined, these findings may have implications for the draft of future European legislation regarding poultry welfare.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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