Australia announces new animal welfare standards for poultry

12-09-2022 | |
Photo: Mark Pasveer
Photo: Mark Pasveer

Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has announced the completion of work on developing new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

The work was carried out by the Independent Poultry Welfare Panel commissioned by all Agriculture Ministers in 2019.

“This follows an extensive process of stakeholder consultation, and the consideration of contemporary animal welfare science and community expectations,” wrote the department, adding that these poultry standards are one of a suite of Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines that aim to “harmonise national animal welfare legislation, providing clarity and consistency to industry, consumers and trading partners”.

Standards are the animal welfare requirements that will be put into effect in state and territory legislation and must be met under law for farm animal welfare purposes. Guidelines are voluntary and are recommended practices to achieve desirable animal welfare outcomes.

Most significant poultry welfare improvements

The most significant improvements to poultry welfare in the standards and guidelines include:

  • A phase-out of conventional layer hen cages over 10 to 15 years (at the latest by 2036), depending on the age of current infrastructure.
  • A requirement to provide environmental enrichment for broiler breeders.
  • Changes to the minimum light intensity and required periods of darkness, ventilation, and temperature parameters for all species. Chickens must now be provided a minimum total of at least 6 hours of darkness within a 24-hour period, with at least 1 uninterrupted period of darkness of at least 4 hours.
  • A requirement to provide breeder ducks with access to bathing/dunking water.

Furthermore, from this year, all new chicken cages must be installed with nest areas and layer hens must also have access to perches or platforms and a scratch area.

Australia’s ABC News reports that Australian Chicken Meat Federation executive director, Vivien Kite, says much of what is proposed in the new standards is already being implemented voluntarily by the vast majority of chicken producers.

Natalie Kinsley Freelance journalist