Economic effects of improved animal welfare in livestock and pigs at slaughter

Last changed: 16 January 2020

Animal welfare at slaughter has recently caught increased public attention and slaughterhouse businesses face the challenge of potentially high costs for animal welfare improvements. However, scientific evidence on the overall economic effects of improved animal welfare at slaughter is scarce. The aims of this project are to identify strategies to improve animal welfare at slaughter and to investigate the economic incentives for slaughterhouse businesses to improve animal welfare. The project is interdisciplinary, combining animal science, veterinary medicine and economics with economic modelling, epidemiology, on-site observations and economic simulation studies, to assess costs and benefits related to improved animal welfare at slaughter.

Stress in animals before slaughter affects meat and carcass quality, thus generating direct costs for the slaughterhouse or the process industry due to meat condemnation. Suboptimal design of the slaughterhouse interior acts to reduce animal welfare, but also leads to suboptimal work flow, reduced flow of animals in the slaughter process and thus reduced production efficiency for the slaughterhouse business. Although the relationships between suboptimal handling of animals, animal welfare, production efficiency and the economic outcome for the slaughterhouse businesses may seem self-evident, research in this area is lacking. In this project, we will explicitly investigate the possible extent of the economic incentives of slaughterhouses to improve animal welfare. In order to stay competitive, food business operators such as slaughterhouse companies need to optimise their economic returns.

Specific objectives are to:

  1. Develop and apply an economic model to estimate the economic impact of improved animal welfare at slaughter at slaughterhouse business level.
  2. Explore variations in, and associations between, animal welfare and health, slaughter process flow and carcass quality at Swedish slaughterhouses in an epidemiological study based on historical data from the official slaughter records database and data from official animal welfare inspections.
  3. Investigate variations in, and quantify the effects of, on-farm husbandry system (intensive or extensive), transport distance and lairage time at the slaughterhouse on animal welfare and health, slaughter process flow and meat quality in a slaughterhouse-based observation study.
  4. Investigate the economic effects of improved animal welfare, slaughter process flow and meat quality at slaughterhouse business level by stochastic simulation.
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