Dinner plate chickens couldn't walk, says research

Research has suggested that more than a quarter of broiler chickens have difficulty walking due to the fast rate at which they are grown.

According to the BBC, the Defra-funded study of 51,000 chickens intensively bred specifically for their meat, found that at about 40 days old 27.6% exhibited "poor locomotion" and 3.3% could almost not walk at all.
"Our research shows that the primary risk factors associated with impaired locomotion and poor leg health are those specifically associated with the rate of growth," said researcher Dr Toby Knowles of Bristol University's Division of Food Animal Science.
"Worldwide approx. 20 bln broilers are reared within similar husbandry systems that are biased towards economics of production and detrimental to poultry welfare."
The research involved 176 flocks belonging to five major chicken producers in the UK.
Other side of the coin - poultry industry retaliates
According to an article on Farmers Weekly, the British poultry sector has hit back at these media claims.
What the BBC failed to mention, says that article, was that the 3-year project was carried out from 2003-2006 and that the industry had already put the findings into place. And on top of this, the main chicken producing companies had full involvement in the project.
The British Poultry Council (BPC) stated that the study was intended to identify risk factors associated with leg health problems and to provide recommendations that may be used to improve leg health under commercial conditions.
Significant improvement in overall leg health
The BPC adds that, following on from the study, chicken producers have continued to work with the University of Bristol and have changed flock management practices in line with the study's findings.
These changes, such as longer dark periods to give the birds more rest, meal-time feeding in the earlier weeks, and the addition of whole wheat to chickens' feed have significantly improved overall leg health. Additionally, since the study was undertaken, new genetic stock has been introduced into the UK chicken sector which has improved the leg health of the breed highlighted in the study.

Editor WorldPoultry

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