The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association awarded a $110,000 grant through its USPOULTRY Foundation to fund research addressing animal welfare in commercial broiler farms.
The research, “Effect of Variable Light Intensity Program on Broiler Gait Score, Stress and Central Positive Welfare in Commercial Broiler Farm”, is a joint project of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and Tyson Foods.
Light intensity has been shown to affect the activity of birds, but most studies have focused on constant light intensities to determine their effect on welfare. This project will provide objective measures to evaluate the impact on broiler welfare (i.e., lameness, stress and behavior) by light sources and intensity.
Dr. Karen Christensen, senior director of animal welfare for Tyson Foods and primary investigator for their animal welfare research, and Seong Wook Kang, poultry research associate for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, will collaborate on the project.
Christensen and Kang as well as other Division of Agriculture researchers previously collaborated on related research into how the effects of lighting on chicken brain chemistry have beneficial outcomes for stress management and well-being.
“This research will help measure bird behavioral and physiological outcomes, allowing this information to guide the industry’s efforts to continuously improve welfare for the birds entrusted to our care,” Christensen said.
“The funding of this critical research emphasizes the entire industry’s commitment to, and their recognition of the importance of animal wellbeing in animal agriculture,” said David Caldwell, director of the Division of Agriculture’s Center of Excellence for Poultry Science. “The Center of Excellence for Poultry Science is excited to work directly with Dr. Christensen and Tyson Foods on this project, and we thank the USPOULTRY Foundation Board for selecting this proposal for funding.”
“This comprehensive animal welfare study will provide sound data to assist the industry with determining the optimum lighting program to improve overall broiler welfare,” said Denise Heard, DVM, USPOULTRY director of research.
The topic and request for proposal were selected by the USPOULTRY Board of Directors for funding through the Board Research Initiative program. The Foundation Research Advisory Committee evaluated numerous research proposals and recommended several proposals for consideration. The board then selected the specific projects to fund.
“USPOULTRY has consistently funded research projects to further advance animal care and husbandry across all sectors of our industry. This is another step in that process,” said John Starkey, USPOULTRY president.
The research grant was made possible in part by an endowing foundation gift from Simmons Foods. The research grant was made possible in part by donations to the USPOULTRY Foundation. The donations came from a wide range of poultry and egg companies, individuals and families to support the foundation’s mission of funding industry research and recruiting students into poultry careers.
The USPOULTRY Board Research Initiative was created by the boards of USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation to address specific and developing issues facing the poultry industry. Since the inception of the research program, USPOULTRY has reinvested more than $32 million dollars into the industry in the form of research grants. More than 50 universities and federal and state facilities have received grants over the years.