FEBRUARY 10,2008: The British poultry sector has hit back at media claims that newresearch findings published show that more than one-quarterof broiler chickens have difficulty walking as result of their highgrowth rates.

The BBC claimed that DEFRA-funded research carried out by the University of Bristol showed that birds at about 40 days of age, 27.6% exhibited “poor locomotion” and 3.3% could almost not walk at all.But the poultry sector says the three-year project was carried out from 2003 to 2006 and that the industry had already put the findings into place. It said the main chicken producing companies had full involvement in the project.The British Poultry Council said the study was intended to identify risk factors associated with leg health problems and to provide recommendations that may be used to improve leg health under commercial conditions.It said that following on from the study, chicken producers have continued to work with the University of Bristol and have changed flock management practices in line with the study’s findings.These changes, such as longer dark periods to give the birds more rest, meal-time feeding in the earlier weeks, and the addition of whole wheat to chickens’ feed have significantly improved overall leg health, it claimed.The BPC added that since the study was undertaken, new genetic stock has been introduced into the UK chicken sector which has improved the leg health of the breed highlighted in the study.

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