Research project Animal Welfare Indicators at the SlaughterHouse

In progress AWISH
Chicken

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Jarissa Maselyne

Data analysis and precision lifestock farming expert

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Main research question

At the heart of the aWISH project (Animal Welfare Indicators at the SlaughterHouse) is the large-scale, automated at-slaughter monitoring of animal-based welfare indicators for quantifying animal welfare status on-farm, during (un)loading, transport and slaughter. Novel sensors and accompanying artificial intelligence decision tools and algorithms are developed and tested to measure these indicators in order to collect data continuously and automatically. The aim is then to use this data to give feedback and advice on best practices to those responsible for the chicken and pigs throughout their lifetime (farmer, catching team, transporter, slaughterhouse). This approach will be developed and evaluated in close collaboration with all actors involved, from the livestock farmers up to policy makers and citizens.

Research approach

The four-year aWISH project is funded by Horizon Europe and starts on 1 November 2022. The project is led by ILVO and has 24 partners from 13 European countries. At the core of the project are 6 regional chicken and pig production chains or pilots, spread across Europe (FR, PL, ES, NL, AT, RS), where the aWISH developments will be tested and validated.

aWISH uses a lean multi-actor approach focusing on user acceptability and co-creation with the different stakeholders. The 6 pilots (see map) are led by multi-disciplinary teams and will develop and test novel animal welfare monitoring technologies, collect the necessary animal welfare data in their specific region and test the aWISH feedback tool. Besides this animal welfare assessment, also an environmental assessment will be conducted to detect synergies and minimize trade-offs between animal welfare improvement and environmental impacts. Combinations of innovative animal welfare options with high ecologic efficiency and reduced resource consumption along the whole production chain will be explored. A catalogue of animal welfare indicators will be developed for any stakeholder to use, to assess the welfare of fattening pigs and broiler chickens. Also 9 best practices guides will help external actors to deploy the aWISH technologies and feedback tool and improve animal welfare across Europe.

Relevance/Valorization

The project focuses on broiler chickens and fattening pigs for several reasons. Both sectors are very important economic segments of the EU and world food production. However, they also deal with large numbers of animals, that require individual attention to optimize their welfare. Broiler chickens and pigs are the farm animals with the most concerns expressed by EU citizens. Also, on-farm animal welfare monitoring is difficult and time-consuming for these species. With our automated methods concentrated at a central location, which is the slaughterhouse, we can help overcome this challenge. By demonstrating and evaluating the overall concept for these two farm animal types we also believe a spread of knowledge and technologies to other types of meat-producing livestock can be expected, such as cattle, turkeys, or ducks.

ILVO is coordinator of the aWISH project and thus responsible for amongst others the management and quality assurance of the project. ILVO is also involved in other work, and especially in the animal welfare assessment and improvement on farm and chain level, where the impact of the automated monitoring and feedback system will be analyzed for farmers, loaders, transporters and the slaughterhouse in the different pilots.

Financing

EU Horizon Europe