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The challenge of incorporating animal welfare in a social life cycle assessment model of European chicken production

Lookup NU author(s): Craig Tallentire, Emerita Professor Sandra Edwards, Professor Ilias Kyriazakis



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Purpose There is increasing public concern over standards of farm animal welfare, yet the majority of sustainability studies of livestock have thus far focused only on environmental performance and profitability. Where social analysis has been carried out, there has yet to be a consistent methodology developed that incorporates animal welfare into social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). A framework was developed to assess animal welfare, using conventional broiler chicken meat production in Europe as a case in point.Methods Data were collected on stocking density, mortality and carcass condemnation rate from conventional chicken meat production systems in Europe. The quantitative risk of each welfare indicator was characterized in accordance with the Social Hotspots Database methodology based on best to worst farm performances, i.e. quartiles of the data collected for each indicator. The overall animal welfare impact was assessed using a weighted sum methodology, which accounted for the level of risk animals were exposed to for each indicator and the animal lifespan. From this, a social hotspot index (SHI) could be calculated for the animal welfare impact associated with the functional unit, which was 1 kg of chicken meat production. The animal welfare impact of four European countries was then compared.Results and discussion The countries assessed displayed a range of values for overall animal welfare impact; the country with the best animal welfare had a SHI for animal welfare impact of 0.14, whilst the worst had a SHI for animal welfare impact of 0.72. Farms that kept more birds per building had an increased overall animal welfare impact. Animal welfare, determined by negative welfare indicators, was worse in more recently established farm buildings due to increased flock size. Conclusion A methodology that incorporates animal welfare indicators into S-LCA was developed that is both scalable and related to welfare assessment frameworks. Although only some specific negative welfare indicators were considered here, the methodology could easily accommodate additional negative indicators and even positive welfare indicators as advancements are made in the assessment of animal welfare. Hence, this study provides a springboard for further development of S-LCA, animal welfare assessment and, ultimately, improved animal welfare in livestock systems.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tallentire C, Edwards SA, Van Limbergen T, Kyriazakis I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

Year: 2019

Volume: 24

Pages: 1093–1104

Print publication date: 01/06/2019

Online publication date: 30/11/2018

Acceptance date: 20/11/2018

Date deposited: 29/11/2018

ISSN (print): 0948-3349

ISSN (electronic): 1614-7502

Publisher: Springer Berlin Heidelberg


DOI: 10.1007/s11367-018-1565-2


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