Friday, December 13, 2013

Hen welfare is a complex issue - but genuine free range comes out on top

Professor Christine Nicol of Bristol University in the UK has written about the media misrepresentation of some of her work on hen welfare issues. Some news outlets here in Australia were guilty of publishing misleading information.

She says there has been a good deal of media coverage about the relative merits of enriched cage and free-range egg production.

'Some,' she says 'reached the simple conclusion that enriched cages are better for hen welfare than free range. Others have argued the opposite'.

She argues that in a comprehensive study comparing four different housing systems, hens in enriched cages had lower mortality and fewer problems relating to disease, pecking injuries and skeletal health than hens in any other system. However, in terms of bird welfare, enriched cage can never provide birds with the full freedom to perform behaviours that matter to them.

'In this respect the free-range system has the edge. More so than any alternative, the free-range system has the potential to meet both the physical and the behavioural needs of the birds', Professor Nicol says.

Full details of the UK report here:

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