According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of welfare is “the state
of doing well especially in respect to happiness and well-being.” The definition of
humane is “marked by compassion, sympathy or consideration for humans or
animals.” This said, the humane treatment of animals considers the happiness or well-being of the animal as it relates to human compassion. As a significant segment of
society, “meat consumers are increasingly demanding that animals be reared, handled,
transported and slaughtered using humane practices.”1 The challenge these days is
finding an interpretation of “humane” that will meet the expectations of the animal
behaviorist, the agriculture industry, the consumer, consumer-interest groups,
government agencies and, ultimately, the animal.
more than 25 years of experience viewing production animals on their final
day of life, my opinion is that, regardless of the method of raising meat animals, dairy livestock or poultry, the
greatest contributor to humane handling is management practices. A conscientious and well-educated producer
with competent, well-trained employees
and modern, up-to-date facilities can
produce a meat animal that would be
“The media have been quick to
publicize large meat recalls that are
associated with humane handling or
food safety concerns.”
The five freedoms
When considering the basic welfare needs of an animal, the most common definition is taken from the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent advisory board established by the European government in 1979.
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to
maintain full health and vigor.
2. Freedom from Discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment, including
shelter and a comfortable resting area.
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease: by prevention or rapid diagnosis and
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment that
avoid mental suffering.
Included with the definition of the five freedoms, the FAWC also emphasizes the
importance of good stockmanship when rearing livestock and animals for meat or
other use. “Stockmanship, plus the training and supervision necessary to achieve required standards, are key factors in the handling and care of livestock,” the FAWC’s
web site states. “A management system may be acceptable in principle but without
competent, diligent stockmanship, the welfare of animals cannot be adequately safeguarded. We lay great stress on the need for better awareness of welfare needs, for better training and supervision.”
considered by most consumers to have
met the five freedoms of animal welfare.
Achieving all of the parameters that
must be considered requires an expert
team of specialists on the subject of animal genetics, facility design, nutrition,
handling, reproduction and veterinary
care. In addition, today’s modern producer must possess a passion and love
for the animals. I truly believe that the
best producers respect and adore the animals they raise because the challenges
faced are far too many for a disinterested manager to overcome!
DEFINING THE EFFECTS OF STRESS UPON
MEAT AND MILK
The quality and safety of the meat is
greatly influenced by management of
the stresses associated with production,
transport and harvest. Minimizing pain,
fear and injuries requires calm, quiet
handling and can improve the following
Differences in intensive versus traditional production
As modern agriculture has evolved to feed large populations and to minimize the
labor, real estate and economic resources required, global production has shifted from
small-scale, single-family, multi-species farms to large-scale, single-species, intensive
production operations. One of the most common production methods involves confinement operations where hundreds or thousands of animals may be raised in a single feedlot, facility or building. The use of confinement operations optimizes a
producer’s ability to manage many animals in a single area; however, this method
brings with it a need for management controls to minimize diseases and maximize the
efficiency of the operation.
Groups that oppose industrial farming often criticize the modern intensive methods because of welfare, environmental and health concerns. As a meat scientist with
Dark cutting meat
Dark cutting meat occurs most frequently from pre-harvest stress. There is
a depletion of muscle glycogen prior to
harvest such that the pH of the meat remains high (> 6.0) post-mortem. This
higher pH causes an increase in light absorption and water-binding abilities and
can result in a dark, firm, dry (DFD) surface. DFD meat can facilitate bacterial
growth of microbial organisms that