Public perceptions about animal welfare remains one of the major challenges of the poultry industry. Yvonne Thaxton of the University of Arkansas Center for Food Animal Well Being did her part to clear up misconceptions, sharing a message with reporters about how what people think of poor animal care is often quite the opposite.
"A lot of times, procedures that look bad are good. Other procedures that look bad, are in reality, good," Thaxton said April 19 at the Chicken Media Summit.
She cited one example of how people with no knowledge of the industry sometimes complain about the crowded conditions chickens live in based off of what they saw in a picture. What they don't realize, Thaxton said, is that chickens huddle together because they are flock animals, and in most cases, there is still a lot of open space in the barns that the chickens are choosing not to use.
In contrast, pictures of rangeland poultry create an image that the birds look happy, healthy and comfortable. But in reality, she said, they are not protected from predators and pathogens.
Thaxton took a question from the media group that reiterated her point. When asked about why chickens are raised in areas with so little light, she said that just because the light might be dim and not suitable for humans, it is for chickens.
"It has been determined that they actually get plenty of light," said Thaxton. "It's dim for you, but it keeps them calmer to be in a somewhat low light situation. And that is better for their behavior and their welfare in general."
The Chicken Media Summit was sponsored by the National Chicken Council and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.