Online chats to assess stakeholder perceptions of meat chicken intensification and welfare

Tiffani J. Howell, Vanessa I. Rohlf, Grahame J. Coleman, Jean-Loup Rault

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Evidence suggests that there is variation in support for specific chicken farming practices amongst stakeholder groups, and this should be explored in more detail to understand the nature of these differences and work towards convergence. Online focus groups were used to assess attitudes to animal welfare in meat chicken farming in this pilot study. Across six online chats, 25 participants (general public, n = 8, animal advocacy group, n = 11, meat chicken industry, n = 3, research or veterinary practice who had experience with poultry but no declared industry affiliation, n = 3) discussed meat chicken intensification and welfare. Of those, 21 participants completed pre-and post-chat surveys gauging perceptions and objective knowledge about meat chicken management. Main reasons for intensification support were perceptions of improved bird health, and perceptions that it is a cost-effective, sustainable farming system. Reasons for opposition included perceptions that a large number of birds kept are in close proximity and have limited ability to perform natural behaviours. Misunderstandings about current practices were clarified in chats which contained industry representation. Participants agreed on the need for enforceable standards and industry transparency. Industry-affiliated members rated welfare of meat chickens higher, and gave lower ratings for the importance of natural living, than other stakeholder groups (both p = 0.001). On average, while objective knowledge of intensification increased after chat participation (p = 0.03), general welfare ratings and support for intensification did not change over time, counter to assertions that lack of knowledge results in lack of support for some practices.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number67
    Number of pages14
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


    • Animal welfare
    • Broilers
    • Forums
    • Free-range
    • Intensive farming
    • Livestock
    • Meat chickens
    • Natural behaviour

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