LONDON -- Plans to implement Europe’s first comprehensive welfare rules on chickens raised for meat were released Jan. 26 by Jane Kennedy, Minister for Farming and the Environment. The new rules are open to public comments through April 20 and are scheduled to be implemented in June 2010, covering all chicken meat production operations with more than 500 birds.

The new rules, however, will not apply to holdings with only breeding stocks of meat chickens, hatcheries, extensive indoor, free-range or organic chickens.

The EU rules address monitoring slaughtering facilities so poor welfare can be identified with both producers and agencies responsible for animal welfare and food safety. For the first time, the new European rules produce a legal baseline for all producers, including those who do not participate in any voluntary assurance schemes.

"These new EU rules are a welcome improvement on the limited conditions previously applied to the welfare of chickens raised for meat," Ms Kennedy said. "From now on, we will be looking at what really matters, which is the overall welfare of the bird itself. Many factors contribute to high-welfare standards, and that’s what we’re focusing on – better standards for all birds across Europe. For most English producers, the new requirements simply build on systems that are already in place and working well."

Also included in the new EU measures are new limits for ammonia and carbon dioxide and standards for temperature, humidity and maximum stocking density, as well as clear requirements for industry training.

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