Canadian chicken and turkey farmers now have a book to go by.
The industry has released a set of care guidelines for their birds to help address consumer concerns about how poultry is produced.
The codes of practice were developed under the auspices of the National Farm Animal Care Council by representatives of producer, veterinarian, animal welfare and other organizations.
“The Code of Practice supports the sustainability of Canadian poultry industries and the success of farmers,” said Vernon Froese, poultry farmer and chair of the committee responsible for developing them. “Stakeholder commitment is the key to ensuring that quality animal care standards are established and implemented.”
That’s the next big step for the industry — making sure the codes are fully understood and implemented so the industry can walk the talk on animal welfare, a frequent concern expressed by consumers.
Ian Duncan, who represents the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the committee, said the process represents a concrete step forward.
“The code process provides an important opportunity for advancing farm animal welfare policy in Canada,” he said.
Duncan said it’s important to note that all voices were heard during the development of the care standards.
“During the recent public comment period, we received broad input from the public, industry and other stakeholders,” he said.
He noted that the code will require farmers to provide their birds with a minimum of four hours of dark time per day to rest, provide immediate vet care for sick and injured birds and more humane euthanasia.
“These are reasonable standards, but we feel this code could have gone further,” added Barbara Cartwright, CEO of CFHS. “For example, the invasive and painful practice of trimming beaks and toes with a hot blade is still allowed, we’re only halfway to the ideal dark time for chickens and turkeys, which is seven hours per day, and we’ve done nothing to relieve the chronic hunger resulting from genetic selection that causes massive appetite and rapid growth. Ideally, we would also further decrease the number of birds housed per square metre.”
The codes have been under discussion for more than four years and will meet “more of the biological and behavioural needs of the 600 million chickens and eight million turkeys being raised on Canadian farms each year.”
A statement from major poultry-producing groups said the codes “will serve as the foundation for ensuring that farm animals are cared for using sound management and welfare practices that promote animal health and well-being. Codes are used as educational tools, reference materials for regulations, and the foundation for industry animal care assessment programs.”
The development of the codes “is a uniquely collaborative approach that ensures credibility and transparency through scientific rigour, stakeholder collaboration, and consistency.”
It was undertaken by a 15-person committee comprised of poultry farmers, animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, hatcheries, transporters, processors, veterinarians, and government representatives. A five-person Scientific Committee assisted with expertise in research and veterinary expertise in poultry behaviour, health and welfare.
Support for the code development came from Growing Forward 2 and the Canadian Animal Health Coalition.