The Council said the certification would allow consumers to feel “confident” when buying and eating chickens.
“Consumers want to be sure that all animals being raised for food are treated with respect and are properly cared for during their lives,” said Dr Ashley Peterson, NCC senior vice-president of scientific and regulatory affairs.
“Our approach to the well-being of the birds is focused on objective measures and welfare outcomes throughout the birds’ entire lives, using the latest science and data and by carefully observing the chickens’ behaviour.”
The organisation’s broiler breeder guidelines were last updated in June 2017 and this is the first time in its history that the National Chicken Council has been certified by an independent audit certification firm.
As part of the audit, NCC will have to update its animal welfare guidelines, which incorporate new parameters to improve chicken welfare such as:
- Increased focus on bird behaviour, objective measures and welfare outcomes
- Increasing record-keeping and corrective action requirements both in the hatchery and on the farm
- Increasing oversight of chick welfare at the hatchery
- Adding time requirements for the euthanasia of birds unfit for transport
- New parameters on catching requirements
- Improved consistencies between the NCC broiler and breeder guidelines for ease of auditing
- Adding a major non-conformance to the broiler breeder guidelines
- Adding specifics on broiler breeder monitoring by an auditor.
As well as the updated guidelines, birds must have enough space to express normal behaviours such as dust bathing, preening, eating and drinking.
PAACO’s executive director Collette Kaster said: “Our mission at PAACO is to promote animal welfare through auditor training and audit certification. We are very pleased with the inclusion of many of the review panel and PAACO’s recommendations into this revision and, as a result, the guidelines are stronger than before and will facilitate more rigorous audits in the future.”