WASHINGTON — The National Chicken Council (NCC) updated its guidelines for animal care and welfare at the beginning of the new year.

Every year since its creation in 1999, the NCC Broiler Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist has been reviewed by NCC. The guidelines have been adopted by many poultry farmers and processors to help ensure proper care and humane treatment of chickens.

“According to the World Organization for Animal Health Terrestrial Animal Health Code, good welfare is when the animal is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, and not suffering from pain, fear or distress,” the guidelines said.

The NCC Broiler Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist cover every step of a chicken’s life that is raised for meat. Topics addressed include:

  • The identification of Key Welfare Indicators (KWIs) including paw/footpad health, gait scoring, effective processing parameters and minimizing leg/wing injuries
  • Whistleblower protection
  • Additional focus on training programs for proper handling
  • More documentation and monitoring of various practices
  • A more streamlined auditing tool for ease of auditing
  • An increased focus on bird behavior, objective measures and welfare outcomes
  • Updated scoring guides developed by the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP)

“With this certification, consumers and customers can feel confident that when buying and eating chicken, the birds were well-cared for and treated humanely,” said Ashley Peterson, PhD, NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. “Our approach to the well-being of birds is to focus on objective measures and welfare outcomes throughout the birds’ entire lives by carefully observing the chickens’ behavior.”

NCC also plans to release an updated version of its Broiler-Breeder Welfare Guidelines by the end of 2023.