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Animal Welfare and Food Safety Aspects of Confining Broiler Chickens to Cages

1
Humane Society International, Farm Animals, 2100 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
2
Humane Society of the United States, Farm Animals, 2100 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2013, 3(2), 386-400; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani3020386
Received: 28 February 2013 / Revised: 27 April 2013 / Accepted: 7 May 2013 / Published: 13 May 2013
In commercial chicken meat production, broiler chickens are usually kept on the floor in ware-house like buildings, but the use of cages is becoming more common. Confining chickens to cages is a welfare problem, as has been thoroughly demonstrated for laying hens used for egg production. Caged broiler chickens may suffer from poor bone strength due to lack of exercise, feather loss, and restriction of natural behavior. There are also potential food safety concerns associated with the use of cages. While cages may provide an economic advantage in some geographical regions of the world, the severe, inherent disadvantages should also be considered before cages are more widely adopted in the global broiler chicken industry.
In most areas of the world, broiler chickens are raised in floor systems, but cage confinement is becoming more common. The welfare of broiler chickens in cages is affected by movement restriction, poor bone strength due to lack of exercise, and prevention of key behavioral patterns such as dustbathing and ground scratching. Cages for broiler chickens also have a long history of causing skin and leg conditions that could further compromise welfare, but a lack of controlled studies makes it difficult to draw conclusions about newer cage designs. Cage environments are usually stocked at a higher density than open floor systems, and the limited studies available suggest that caging may lead to increased levels of fear and stress in the birds. Further, birds reared on the floor appear less likely to harbor and shed Salmonella, as litter may serve as a seeding agent for competitive exclusion by other microorganisms. Cages for laying hens used in egg production have met with substantial opposition due to welfare concerns and caging broiler chickens will likely be subject to the same kinds of social disapproval. View Full-Text
Keywords: broiler; welfare; cage; food safety; behavior; stocking density; leg problems broiler; welfare; cage; food safety; behavior; stocking density; leg problems
MDPI and ACS Style

Shields, S.; Greger, M. Animal Welfare and Food Safety Aspects of Confining Broiler Chickens to Cages. Animals 2013, 3, 386-400.

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