Cost-efficiency of animal welfare in broiler production systems

I.C. de Jong, E. Gocsik, Suzanne Brooshooft, H.W. Saatkamp

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Broiler producers operate in a highly competitive and cost-price driven environment. In addition, in recent years the societal pressure to improve animal welfare (AW) in broiler production systems is increasing. Hence, from an economic and decision making point of view, the cost-efficiency of improvement in AW obtained from a certain production system is of great importance. Therefore, the aim of this paper was to analyze the contribution of four different production systems to overall AW and the cost-efficiency of increased AW at the farm level. Cost-efficiency was calculated as the ratio of the change in the level of animal welfare and the change in the level of production costs compared to the level of conventional system (i.e. legal minimum standards). The level of AW was measured by the Welfare Quality index score (WQ index score) calculated on the basis of data collected in 168 flocks in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Italy within the Welfare Quality® project. On the basis of systems attributes, three main segments of production systems are distinguished, i.e. conventional, middle-market and top-market systems. The middle-market and top-market systems use a slow growing breed. Stocking density ranges from 25 to 31 kg/m2 in middle-market systems and from 21 to 27.5 kg/ m2 in top-market systems. In the middle-market systems, a covered veranda is provided to the chickens, whereas in the top-market systems chickens have access to an outdoor range. Total production costs were calculated for each production system using a deterministic economic model. Results show that the middle-market systems, such as the Dutch Volwaard and Puur & Eerlijk systems, had the highest WQ index score (736), whereas the conventional system had the lowest (577). Moreover, the WQ index score of extensive outdoor (733) and organic systems (698) was below that of the middle-market systems. Three system attributes contributed most to AW in all systems, i.e. broiler type, stocking density and length of the dark period. With respect to production costs, broiler chickens kept in conventional system were produced at the lowest costs, followed by the middle-market, the extensive outdoor, and the organic systems. With regard to cost-efficiency, when shifting from conventional to an alternative system, middlemarket systems (i.e. Volwaard and Puur & Eerlijk; 8.37) outperformed the extensive outdoor (3.90) and organic systems (1.03). Overall, it can be concluded that the middle-market systems could be attractive for farmers due to their high cost-efficiency, a higher WQ index score and the flexibility to revert to the conventional system.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals
Subtitle of host publicationBook of abstracts
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868315
ISBN (Print)9789086862856
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals - Wageningen University (Hof van Wageningen Conference Centre), Wageningen, Netherlands
Duration: 22 Jun 201623 Jun 2016
Conference number: 16


Conference16th International Conference on Production Diseases in Farm Animals
Abbreviated titleICPD 2016
Internet address


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