Consumers want to be sure that all animals being raised for food are treated with respect and are properly cared for during their lives. The people and companies involved in raising chickens for food share the public’s concern.

To assist chicken producers and processors in this effort, the National Chicken Council (NCC) in 1999 developed the NCC Broiler Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist which have been widely adopted by chicken farmers and processors to ensure all chickens are being properly cared for and treated humanely. Annually reviewed, the guidelines cover every phase of a chicken’s life and offer the most up-to-date recommendations for the proper treatment and humane care of broiler chickens – those chickens raised for meat.

The 2023 update of the NCC Broiler Welfare Guidelines is more robust than ever before and incorporates new parameters to improve bird welfare.

The guidelines include:

  • The identification of Key Welfare Indicators (KWIs) including paw/footpad health, gait scoring, effective processing parameters, and minimizing leg/wing injuries;
  • Whistleblower protection;
  • Additional focus on training programs for proper handling;
  • More documentation and monitoring of various practices;
  • A more streamlined auditing tool for ease of auditing;
  • An increased focus on bird behavior, objective measures and welfare outcomes; and
  • Updated scoring guides developed by the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP).

NCC’s guidelines were updated with assistance from an academic advisory panel consisting of poultry welfare experts and veterinarians from across the United States and were recently certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO), a leading authority on animal welfare auditing who provides high quality training and certification credentials for auditors and audits.

“With this certification, consumers and customers can feel confident that when buying and eating chicken, the birds were well-cared for and treated humanely,” said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. “Our approach to the well-being of birds is to focus on objective measures and welfare outcomes throughout the birds’ entire lives by carefully observing the chickens’ behavior.”

NCC plans to release an updated version of its Broiler-Breeder Welfare Guidelines by the end of 2023.