WASHINGTON – The National Chicken Council has released its latest guidelines for the welfare and handling of chickens.

The 2014 update of the NCC Animal Welfare Guidelines includes new subject matter such as whistleblower protections, poultry handling training programs, documentation and monitoring practices and a streamlined auditing tool. An academic advisory panel of poultry welfare experts and veterinarians updated the guidelines.

"We are very pleased with the inclusion of many of the panel's recommendations into this revision," said Dr. Sarge Bilgili, professor and extension poultry scientist, Auburn Univ. and chair of the panel. "As a result, the NCC Animal Welfare Program is significantly improved and, more importantly, the continued well-being of broiler chickens will be assured."

The new guidelines also:

• Increase emphasis on corporate commitment;
• Require internal and external auditing for animal welfare;
• Require increased oversight by veterinarians, service technicians and live production managers;
• Provide more details on acceptable euthanasia practices from the hatchery to the processing plant;
• Provide new requirements to make sure the chickens are properly monitored for healthy legs;
• Require stunning procedures to be more effective;
• Change the audit scoring system to emphasize each step on the process from the hatchery to the processing plant; and
• Highlight the implications of non-conformances to the guidelines.

"The chicken industry has come together on a specific set of expectations that will continue to ensure the birds we raise are taken care of with the highest standards starting at hatch," said Mike Brown, NCC president.