Assurance schemes as a tool to tackle genetic welfare problems in farm animals: broilers
Farm assurance schemes can set standards to assure compliance with specific requirements relating to animal welfare. As such, standards can be set to address genetic-related welfare problems in farm animals, such as those associated with fast growth rates in meat chickens (broilers)
(Gallus gallus domesticus). Based on discussions with broiler breeding companies, broiler producers and in line with published research, the RSPCA placed a maximum limit on the genetic growth rate potential of broilers that could be used within its own farm assurance scheme —
Freedom Food. Despite the introduction of this requirement, the number of birds reared on the scheme increased from 25 million to 55 million per year over a three-year period, with all of these birds meeting the genetically slower growing requirement. In addition, the two largest global broiler
breeding companies responded to this change in the market by each developing a genetically slower growing bird. This demonstrates that assurance schemes can have a pivotal role in tackling genetic welfare problems in farm animals, such as those associated with fast growth in broilers.