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Free Dietary Choice and Free-Range Rearing Improve the Product Quality, Gait Score, and Microbial Richness of Chickens

1
National Engineering Laboratory for Animal Breeding, Key Laboratory of Animal Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction, Ministry of Agriculture, College of Animal Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
2
Laboratory of Land Ecology, Field Science Center, Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Tohoku University, Miyagi 9896711, Japan
3
School of Life Science and Engineering, Foshan University, Foshan 528225, China
4
Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
5
Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine, Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, Beijing 100097, China
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Animals 2018, 8(6), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8060084
Received: 8 May 2018 / Revised: 30 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 1 June 2018
Poultry welfare has been extensively studied; however, there is a lack of rigorous scientific knowledge relating to the different aspects of welfare factors and how this may contribute to the production quantity and product quality as well as the welfare of chickens. Therefore, we conducted an integrated study to compare welfare factors in chickens by providing free dietary choice under cage rearing, and further comparing cage rearing with free-range rearing. One hundred chickens each were allocated to a cage rearing group with conventional feeding (CC), a cage rearing group with free dietary choice of mealworms (FDM), a cage rearing group with free dietary choice of mealworms and fresh grass (FDMG), and a free-range rearing system group with free dietary choice of mealworms and fresh grass (FRMG). Results showed that under cage rearing, free dietary choice contributed to better meat quality and gait score, higher values of blood platelets, and a richer gut microbial composition, but poorer egg production than CC chickens. As compared to FDMG, FRMG chickens showed better meat quality, gait score, and feather conditions, as well as a richer gut microbial composition; however, they had poorer egg production and a poorer foot pad and foot feather condition. We conclude that free dietary choice and free-range rearing systems improve the product quality, gait score, and microbial richness of chickens. View Full-Text
Keywords: chicken welfare; cage rearing; free dietary choice; free-range rearing; gut microbial composition chicken welfare; cage rearing; free dietary choice; free-range rearing; gut microbial composition
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Chen, S.; Xiang, H.; Zhu, X.; Zhang, H.; Wang, D.; Liu, H.; Wang, J.; Yin, T.; Liu, L.; Kong, M.; Zhang, J.; Ogura, S.-I.; Zhao, X. Free Dietary Choice and Free-Range Rearing Improve the Product Quality, Gait Score, and Microbial Richness of Chickens. Animals 2018, 8, 84.

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