Better welfare for chickens and pigs

The health and welfare of animals that produce our food is of great importance. Researchers from the University of Utrecht and the Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Nutrition (ILVO) in Flanders, among others, received almost eight million euros from the European Union to develop in cooperation with the industry innovative measuring equipment to monitor the welfare of broiler chickens and fattening pigs as they are loaded, unloaded, transported and slaughtered.

The project ’Animal Welfare Indicators at the SlaughterHouse’ (aWISH) started from 1 November 2022 and will run for four years. It is coordinated by IVLO and a total of 24 partners from 13 European countries are participating. The research is being conducted at six regional chicken and pig production chains in France, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and Serbia.

Individual attention

The project focuses on broilers and fattening pigs for several reasons. Both sectors are very important economic segments of EU and world food production. But they also deal with large numbers of animals, which require individual attention to improve their welfare. Broilers and fattening pigs are the farm animals that EU citizens are most concerned about. Moreover, on-farm monitoring of animal welfare for these species is difficult and time-consuming.

"This is an ambitious project to improve the welfare of chickens and pigs", says Bas Rodenburg , professor of animal welfare at Utrecht University and coordinator of the Monitoring and Improving Animal Welfare component within the project. "We place our automated methods in a central location, namely the slaughterhouse. That is where we can best monitor animal welfare during loading and unloading, transport and slaughter, and also linking it to farm welfare", says Rodenburg. "We are starting with these two types of farm animals, but we also want to make the knowledge and technologies available for other meat-producing species, such as cattle, turkeys or ducks."

From farmer to plate

The researchers are also producing a catalogue of animal welfare indicators and nine guides with successful examples to improve key welfare issues. They also examine the socio-economic and environmental impacts of strategies to improve animal welfare. In doing so, they also look at the needs, perceptions and barriers of all stakeholders - from farmer to plate.

Project website: Horizon Europe Project - The website is under construction ( awish.project.eu )