After a talk that covered several animal welfare topics, Dr. Temple Grandin, animal science professor, Colorado State University, was asked what she thought about outdoor access provisions for poultry in some animal welfare programs. Grandin told the audience at the Delmarva Poultry Industry’s National Meeting on Poultry Heath, Processing and Live Production in Ocean City, Maryland, that the most important thing is to “have clear guidelines and no BS, a porch half the size of this table is pure BS.”

She didn’t provide any opinion on any possible benefits of providing outdoor access to poultry. Grandin said that if outdoor access or any other welfare provision is important to consumers, than poultry producers shouldn’t try to do it halfway, stressing that all welfare guidelines should be set and satisfied in a way “that consumers will recognize and accept.”

Whether the guideline addresses what constitutes outdoor access or cage free, the discussion can’t just focus on what is the most efficient arrangement. The system needs to look like it delivers what it promises. Let’s be honest, when a “porch” attached to a layer or broiler house has a roof and a wood floor, it isn’t what most people would think of as “outdoors.” In fact, I know of a lot of turkey finishing houses that are more like “outdoors” than these porches are.

I think outdoor access for poultry introduces unnecessary cost and disease risk. But, if enough people want to pay a high enough premium for eggs and meat raised this way and someone wants to raise them, then the market will take care of it. But, the industry does itself no favors by adopting guidelines that consumers won’t recognize.