Gary Samson AM

Gary chairs the Chicken Meat Research and Development Advisory Panel, RIRDC, is Vice President of the Australian Chicken Meat Federation and was made a life member of Queensland Farmers Federation following 10 years as President. Gary is also a member of the Biosecurity Queensland Ministerial Advisory Council.

Gary and his wife Julie operate a contract meat chicken farm southwest of Brisbane. The farm commenced operation in 1981. The farm was converted to free range production in 2013.

Topic: Welfare in the chicken meat industry: good science or perception

The chicken meat industry continues to grow at around 3 – 4% per annum with per capita consumption in Australia now exceeding 45kgs, making it the most consumed animal protein. Animal welfare has always been important for the industry which has regularly responded to issues as they arise by changing breeding stock, husbandry and/or production processes.

The industry, through both it’s Chicken Meat Program under the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and individual companies, keeps abreast of current animal welfare research issues, needs and opportunities. In response to the need for capacity in this respect, in recent years, and in conjunction with the egg and pork industries, the chicken meat industry has funded a research position in animal welfare at the University of Melbourne.

Good welfare outcomes need to be based on good science rather than just perception if the industry is to continue to grow and provide a safe and good value product that consumers can be confident is grown in an ethical manner.

For intensive production, a broad range of parameters will influence welfare outcomes, including the type of housing and internal environmental control systems, bird genetics, stocking density, biosecurity, litter management, transport and brooding of day-olds, transport of birds to processing and processing itself.

Most processors have both internal QA programs and customer-driven programs that have varying elements of animal welfare included in them. Some customers are now inspecting farms to verify that their requirements are being met. Some supermarkets require that product is grown under a third party accredited farming system such as the RSPCA Approved Farming scheme or other husbandry system such as free range (with FREPA accreditation).

The meat chicken industry will meet the challenges moving forward but clearly believes that good science must take precedence over perception.