Animal welfare receives more legislative attention in the European Union (EU) than in many other regions of the world. Animal welfare standards for poultry are generally taken to be higher in the EU than in producing countries exporting to the EU, particularly developing countries. The recent action plan for animal welfare introduced by the European Commission aims to further expand the body of regulatory standards. In broiler production worldwide, birds are mainly kept on litter. Recently the EU agreed on a new Directive to set standards for maximum bird density. However, this is not considered likely to have a great impact on global trade. At present, the difference in animal conditions, including bird density, in Brazil and Thailand is limited compared to the EU. In egg production the majority of commercial layers are kept in laying cages. There is wide variation in space allowance per bird from 300 to 400 cm in Brazil, Ukraine and India towards the current minimum of 550 cm(2) per hen in the EU. After 2012, hens in the EU will be kept in enriched cages with a minimum space allowance of 750 cm(2) per hen. It is expected that this will have an impact on world trade in egg products and especially egg powder. Trade in table eggs will continue to be limited to the local region. The EU is considering the use of labelling to provide consumers with more information concerning the standard of production. Another option could be to use financial mechanisms such as taxes or tariffs to prevent imports from other countries with lower standards. The likelihood of a measure being challenged would depend on how difficult it was for exporters outside the EU to meet the requirements.