Defra report Evaluation of Meat Chicken Regulations - AW1144

Andrew Butterworth, Philip Jones, Mara Miele

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


In 2007 new EU rules were agreed (Council Directive 2007/43/EC) for protecting the welfare of chickens kept for meat production, and this ‘Broiler Directive’ came into force in the UK on 30 June 2010. The Directive requires the collection and monitoring of post-mortem condition data (‘trigger conditions’) when the birds are slaughtered, to help identify poor welfare on-farm. These data are used by FSA / APHA to identify farms requiring further investigation (the mechanism by which these data are used for this purpose is explored in detail within the project sections). Analysis of a very large FSA dataset which covers the period 2010 to 2014 and includes data from 2.7 billion chickens indicates that, in the short term, trigger system processes do have measurable and significant positive effects on either flock performance or welfare values on-farm. For some conditions there has been an overall increase in the number of trigger reports generated each year across the period 2010 to 2014, whereas for others there has been a reduction. By comparing the relative importance of the measures and the ‘action taken’ it is apparent that trigger reports result in pragmatic responses (actions) from the industry. Broiler producers have engaged with the requirements of the Broiler Directive 2007/43/EC, and they do respond to trigger reports raised by FSA and APHA by creating action plans, which can be seen to create positive measurable change in the measures identified. Seasonal and year by year changes in the patterns of measures can be derived from the FSA data, and presentation of these data in reports of this type, and perhaps in the future through ‘real time’ analysis, could be of real value in driving responsive change. There have been systematic increases in some conditions, and this has been detected through use of the trigger system. This now enables the potential for targeted action to explore, and alter, the underlying causes of these changes. In addition, important and common conditions (particularly foot pad dermatitis and ascites) are readily identified by the trigger system, and this is communicated to producers and is prioritised for action.
In producer and industry focus group work it was noted that producers see the broiler regulations as an integral part of an overall system put in place by the industry and retailers via the Assured Chicken Production / RTFA and retailers’ scheme, rather than as a top down approach from regulators. Industry representatives pointed out a rather positive aspect of the ‘embeddedness’ of the Directive within the market-based system, i.e. it promotes involvement of producers in the improvement of chicken welfare. Whilst the survey of producers did record some capital investments linked to the Broiler Directive, for example, by the lighting requirements, industry representatives suggested that the majority of changes over the period around 2010 had come under routine and anticipated business improvement. For example, feeders and windows, according to industry representatives are not required in the Directive but they have been implemented in response to retailers’ requirements and as part of overarching trends in business improvement. As a result of this it was suggested that farmers have problems distinguishing between the requirements of the Directive, and of the industry and retailers’ standards.
A survey sought consumer views on broiler welfare and their willingness to pay (WTP) for any welfare benefits resulting from the Directive. The sample was stratified to ensure broad socio-demographic representativeness, and resulted in 665 usable responses, 515 in England and 150 in Wales. The sample was evenly split between males and females, with an average household size of 3.9 people, with 1.7 children. Average household income was £33,500, with 59% of households in rural settings. Chicken was consumed by 95% of respondents, with households eating chicken an average of 3.05 times per week, at an average cost of £8.33 per week. Respondents rated their level of concern for farmed animal welfare, in general, as being fairly low compared to other life concerns such as the environment. However, respondents provided a high rank score when expressing their specific level of concern for the welfare of broilers (8.12/11), with chicken consumers and older respondents scoring more highly. When asked if they would be WTP ‘something’ to improve broiler welfare, 71.2% indicated that they would. However, the same respondents thought that only 42.53% of the general public would be so willing. While only 63% stated that they would be WTP ‘something’ to secure the requirements of the Broiler Directive, 91% subsequently identified a sum that they would be WTP. Consumer WTP in this study is estimated at £31.01/household/year - compared to the value estimated by SAC (2005)(after adjustment for methodological differences between the two studies and inflation) of £25.40. The fact that two similar WTP values have been derived in studies nearly 10 years apart suggests that a robust WTP phenomenon is being measured. The likelihood that 63% of consumers would be WTP an additional 10% on chicken meat prices is fairly high, given the very large ranges seen in conventional chicken prices in supermarkets, which can be higher than 100% between value and premium lines.
The work provides summary conclusions that;
 Analysis of response to trigger reports by following a number of farms indicates that flocks show improvement after a trigger has been raised.
 A change to the information provided on trigger reports has come into effect in 2014, partly as a result of experience in effective use of the trigger system, gained as the system has become ‘embedded’ since 2010.
 Economic analysis shows that there has been a measurable cost in adopting the requirements of the Broiler Directive, but it is also apparent that the broiler industry had been in the process of making changes as part of their ongoing commercial activity and so the cost is less directly apparent than had the changes been ‘additional’ to current direction of travel within the business.
 Willingness to pay analysis indicates that consumers do recognise the value of legislative processes which protect welfare in broiler chicken and that they have a positive WTP with regard to this.
 Industry representatives noted the rather positive aspect of the ‘embeddedness’ of the Broiler Directive, within market-based certification schemes, which promotes involvement of all producers in broiler welfare.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyDefra (Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs)
Number of pages84
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

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