Role of moral values in the trade-off between animal welfare and food safety risks in broiler husbandry

Asselt, Mariska van; Ekkel, E.D.; Kemp, B.; Stassen, E.N.


To cope with societal concerns regarding animals kept in intensive systems, alternative broiler husbandry systems that comply with above-legal animal welfare standards, such as the free-range barn system have been introduced. However, broilers in free-range barn systems show higher Campylobacter contaminations than broilers in conventional systems, which might entail a higher risk of Campylobacter infections in consumers. This causes a dilemma between animal welfare and food safety. To make a trade-off, moral values concerning humans and broilers must be weighed. Moral values are deeply rooted and shared in society, but in a specific case they depend on the context and are weighed against each other. To get insight into the role of moral values in the dilemma between broiler welfare and food safety, citizens (n=2,259) and poultry farmers (n=100) were surveyed. First, participants were questioned about 13 moral values regarding chickens and consumers. Next, they were presented a case concerning a broiler farmer who would like to change from a conventional husbandry system to a free-range barn system that complies above-legal welfare standards, but which entails higher Campylobacter contamination of broilers. Respondents were asked whether they agreed with the change from the conventional husbandry systems to the free-range barn system. Additionally, respondents scored the importance of arguments based on moral values and relevance for the case. Citizens and farmers scored equally only the statements regarding chickens being sentient and human health. Both citizens and farmers who agreed with the change of the husbandry system considered the arguments concerning broiler welfare more important than respondents who did not agree with the change of system. This study provides input for deliberation on broiler husbandry especially on the dilemma between broiler welfare and food safety. With the information form this study a broad moral deliberation could be set up between the different stakeholders to define characteristics of future husbandry systems that can count on support from both the poultry sector and citizens.