Breeding for better broiler welfare: balancing sustainability, economic and consumer preferences

Fund

AWF Research Fund

Grant

£64,366

Research Period

2021

Area of study

Breeding for Better Welfare

Description

Investigator(s): Dr Siobhan Abeyesinghe

Selection for fast growth has greatly increased the efficiency of broiler chicken production, resulting in the most widely-consumed affordable protein, globally. However such breeding, with consequent poor welfare outcomes associated with fast-growing broiler breeds, was considered the top poultry welfare issue by the recent AWF-funded Delphi project. Despite campaigns for producers to shift towards slower-growing “Better (welfare) Breeds”, sustainability concerns mean that the vast majority of UK production still relies on traditional fast-growing breeds. Only a few global broiler breeder companies can undertake Breeding for Better Welfare, and to achieve real world effect, this MUST be accompanied, perhaps driven, by Industry adoption of Better Breeds. A major barrier to this, consistent with BVA Sustainable Agriculture Policy, is poor understanding of the collective environmental, economic and consumer responses to slower-growing broiler breeds.

This project aims to draw together and expand upon the relatively disparate and patchy information that is available to date on the UK context. This includes the policy and stakeholder factors that underpin the drive towards slower-growing “higher welfare” breeds, the notable gap on consumer priorities and responses in relation to this potential shift, and improved understanding of welfare, environmental and economic trade-offs.

Findings will inform veterinary advice to producers, increasing confidence in selection and adoption of Better Breeds and will support dialogue with breeding companies on Better Breeding to address areas of welfare and/or sustainability concern. Direct involvement by the British Poultry Council, who are co-funding this project, will support effective and credible dissemination.