Aaron Stephan, Ph.D., director of biological R&D at ONCE, will present The Biology of Happiness: Transforming poultry welfare with science-based approaches at Watt Global Media‘s Poultry Tech Summit happening this week, November 20-22, in Atlanta, GA. In his presentation, Aaron will propose a new, and innovative, approach to how animal welfare metrics are determined in the future. He will explain how the industry currently measures animal welfare with non-scientific presumptions, and provide recommendations about what a successful approach could look like. Read more in his abstract below and watch what he has to say in person on Friday morning at 8:00am EST at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center.
The welfare and humane treatment of animals have always been a priority for poultry growers and processors. Generally, good welfare practices beget efficient growth and production. However, the last decade has shown a “top-down”, consumer- and activist-driven approach to animal welfare. Many of these programs and procedures are fraught with non-scientific presumptions based on the anthropomorphization of animals. In many cases, these practices may lead to decreased animal welfare metrics. In this presentation, I will propose a paradigm shift whereby animal-centric welfare measurements would be prioritized over management practices. I will describe our current state of knowledge on metrics to measure animal welfare. Development of novel welfare metrics will draw upon a much broader set of research on the biology of happiness as it relates to stress, disease, and freedoms. I will touch on the various philosophies of happiness regarding hedonism versus a sense of purpose and belonging. From this ongoing field of research, we may be able to identify novel physiological or behavioral indicators of animal welfare. I will cover recent technological improvements that may make identification and implementation of quantification of markers and behavior automatable and inexpensive. Finally, I will propose an integrated marketing approach whereby individual birds would be screened by third-party auditing agencies and assigned composite welfare scores. Consumers would be given the option to buy at any welfare score level they choose from a sliding price premium. As a result, growers and integrators would be given more freedom to explore alternative management procedures, and market forces would drive scientifically-based welfare improvements for the animals.