Chicken welfare as indicated by lesions on carcases in supermarkets.


1. The extent of visible lesions in British broiler carcases was investigated in order to discover the extent of any poor welfare. It is well established that hock burn and some other injuries can occur during housing of broiler chickens, whilst other injuries can occur during handling. 2. Three hundred and eighty-four whole conventionally reared British Farm Standard Grade A chickens were scrutinised in supermarkets to assess the frequency of 15 kinds of lesions. Six lesions were analysed histopathologically and this showed that hock burn would have occurred several days pre-mortem, red alular and wrist bruise were very likely to have occurred pre-mortem, whilst red parson's nose and scratches were likely to have occurred pre-mortem. 3. Many broiler carcases in the supermarkets had dermal lesions: 0.82 had hock burns, 0.45 a red parson's nose, 0.32 a red alular, 0.21 wrist bruises and 0.21 had at least one scratch on a leg. The frequency of the larger hock burns increased with body weight. 'Organic' chickens had half as many hock burns as conventionally reared broilers, perhaps because of differences in litter quality or leg strength. 4. The sample studied indicates that painful lesions which would result in poor welfare are frequent in broilers slaughtered in the UK. The Grade A chickens observed exclude birds with obvious visible defects because these birds would have had the blemishes removed and the carcase would have been portioned. Hence the frequencies of lesions in farmed birds would be higher than those reported here.