Broiler growers in England are to face a maximum stocking density of 39kg/sq m from next year.
DEFRA’s announcement comes after several months of consulting with the industry, including DEFRA minister visits to poultry farms, on the implementation of the new EU broiler welfare directive.
The Directive sets out a maximum of 39kg/sq m, but member states may allow individual farms to stock up to 42kg/sq m provided they have a proven track record of high welfare for the previous seven flocks. Currently, more than 90% of UK birds are already stocked at less than 39kg/sq m under the Assured Chicken Production.
Producers who wish to stock above 33kg/sq m will need to register by 30 June 2010 and send their completed form to Animal Health at least 15 working days before stocking at that density. DEFRA added that Animal Health will not require prior inspection and approval of these premises. “However if information held by Animal Health suggests that there may be non-compliance, inspection of the site will be required.”
DEFRA also highlighted that it had started a six-month pilot trial to evaluate and improve the reporting procedure in relation to monitoring bird welfare measures in the slaughterhouse and the feedback mechanism when there are welfare concerns. Another aim of the pilot study is to set trigger levels for these welfare indicators, above which would trigger further investigation by Animal Health.
The Department also confirmed that the new rules will not be extended to include free-range, organic and extensive indoor systems of production.