Animal Welfare: a Growing Concern

GLOBAL - In recent years, awareness for animal welfare has increased considerably in the field of poultry production. While the majority of the current poultry producers provide basic animal care, there is room for improvement. Read how Petersime, as an important supplier to the poultry industry, is contributing to this process of animal welfare improvement.
calendar icon 2 July 2013
clock icon 4 minute read

Current poultry practice provides a basic level of animal care through readily available feed and water, protection from predators, shelter, and disease control – primarily through sanitation and biosecurity measures, vaccination and antibiotics. Productivity (growth) and health (low mortality rates) are important aspects that have improved since the farming days-of-old. However, industrial farming has introduced new problems such as leg disorders, skin lesions, respiratory problems and abnormal behaviour. This has become a growing concern for consumers.

Addressing some of these newer animal welfare concerns is nothing to fear. Industry, scientists, regulatory bodies, retailers and consumers are supporting farmers to meet public expectations on price, quality, safety and welfare.

Increased concern about animal welfare

Scientists and government agencies are researching means to incorporate new technology to improve welfare with minimal impact on the current rearing systems and infrastructure.Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for premium food products. In the UK for example, almost 5 per cent of broilers are reared in partnership with Freedom Food, a certification scheme founded by the RSPCA in 1994 to promote farm animal welfare. The rapid growth in the global organic market, 25 per cent over the last three years, has been largely due to retailers actively responding to consumer interest. A good example is Tesco, a major British grocery retailer. To provide choice and reassurance to consumers, Tesco sells chicken reared under five different systems, including the standard chicken from industry’s recommended best practices, improved welfare, free range, organic and also a slower growing breed.

What can Petersime do?

Nancy Roulston, Animal Welfare Expert at Petersime.

Petersime’s hatchery baskets for turkeys and ducks have increased height.

In 2011, Petersime has appointed an animal welfare expert: Nancy Roulston. By taking a dedicated researcher on this topic on board, Petersime wants to investigate how welfare conditions in the hatchery can be further optimised.

At Petersime, animal welfare has always been key during product development. For instance, Petersime was the first to integrate a CO2 sensor in the hatcher in 1998, guaranteeing sufficient fresh air for the chicks. Heat stress on the chicks has been minimised by continuously improving the airflow in the hatcher. Additionally, the design of the hatcher baskets has been optimised to provide chicks with sufficient grip (minimizing sliding and spread legs), sufficient air flow, and increased basket height for turkeys and ducks.

A major welfare improvement was introduced in 2009 with the Synchro-Hatch™ Embryo-Response Incubation™ technology. Synchro-Hatch™ automatically detects the exact timing of 100 per cent internal pipping (IP) and then initiates a sequence of modifications to the incubation environment to stimulate simultaneous hatching. Synchro-Hatch™ also automatically recognizes when all chicks are out. The system then triggers a further phase in the incubation process to optimize the finishing of the chicks to prepare them for take-off. These actions decrease hatch time and concentrate the hatch much nearer to the time of chick take-off. This way, the chicks have access to feed and water much faster, and chick mortality is significantly reduced.

Welfare aspects are also crucial in the hatchery design. A Petersime hatchery stands for uncompromised bio-security for the embryo and the chick. The Eagle Eye™ hatchery monitoring system, released in 2012, safeguards the optimal temperature and humidity in all rooms (egg storage, chick processing, etc.). Moreover, in the chick room, the CO2 level is monitored to guarantee sufficient fresh air for the chicks.


Petersime’s goal is to continue to provide optimal day old chicks for every production system – safeguarding both human and animal wellbeing.

Nancy Roulston, welfare expert at Petersime, said: "It is encouraging to see an active interest in animal welfare in industry. Not only at Petersime but by many key stakeholders within the poultry supply chain."

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