Evaluation of international, commercial dual-purpose chickens under the conditions of organic husbandry to avoid the killing of day-old male layer-chicks
Organic and low-input poultry farming has increased in the EU over the last decade for ethical and socio-economic reasons. However, there are still some unresolved issues in these farming systems, particularly in relation to animal health and mortality problems.
The acceptance by consumers and practitioners, in particular with regard to the killing of day-old male layer chicks, has clearly declined. Furthermore, European citizens expect guarantees for improved animal welfare, safety and quality of poultry meat and eggs in these systems. Therefore, there is a need to improve animal welfare in organic and low-input poultry farming.
Background and Objective
The PPILOW research project is funded by EU-Horizon 2020. A total of 23 different partners from 9 European countries are involved in the PPILOW research project with the goal to find innovative tools and solutions for improving animal welfare of low-input or organic porcine and poultry production.
At the Thuenen Institute for Organic Agriculture, three commercial dual-purpose genotypes will be assessed under organic standards in the rearing, egg production and fattening. The introduction of dual-purpose genotypes is an alternative to culling day-old male chicks of specialised layer genotypes. Despite overall lower performance, the dual-purpose is a synergism that allows the use of both sexes in production systems: the female chickens for egg production and the male chickens for meat production. This approach will contribute to increase the sustainability and credibility of free-range and organic poultry production, also extending the benefit to organic breeders and hatcheries. Another integral part of PPILOW which will be done in collaboration of the Thuenen Institutes of Organic Farming and Farm Economics is the organisation of a national practitioner group (NPG) to support and validate ongoing research. This will contribute to strengthen the research’s practicality for the sector.
The PPILOW project is based on the concept of "One-Welfare" which postulates the evaluation from an environmental, social and economic perspective. The Thuenen Institute for Farm Economics in Braunschweig will evaluate the innovative tools from the economic perspective.
Male and female chicks of the different genotypes will be reared at the experimental farm in Wulmenau. The cockerels will be slaughtered for meat quality assessment. The pullets will be assessed for one full laying period. Over the trial period, welfare and behaviour indicators, environmental and performance data will be collected in order to obtain a comprehensive analysis of the genotypes in their environment. The aim is to compare the outcomes of all participating partners in the other countries to evaluate the characteristics and productivity of the dual-purpose breeds under the aspect of genotype x environment interaction.
National Practitioner Group (NPG)
The participative approach is central to the PPILOW project. Therefore, a national practitioner group will be established in every participating country and will represent the European diversity of stakeholders involved in the value chain of poultry production. This group will accompany the experimental study for the trial period. Topics concerning animal welfare, management and evaluation methods will be discussed and validated. This will extend the outreach of the research project and will strengthen the implementation of tools to increase animal welfare.
Involved external Thünen-Partners
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
- Aarhus University
(Aarhus, Tjele, Dänemark)
- Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
University of Perugia
- Centre Wallon de Recherches Agronomiques (CRA-W)
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
(Paris, Rennes, Montpellier, Frankreich)
European Union (EU)
9.2019 - 8.2024
Project funding number: 816172
Funding program: EU – Horizon 2020 – Societal Challenge "Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy"
Project status: ongoing