What is welfare outcome assessment?

Most welfare standards for farm animals, such as those used by farm assurance schemes, are based on ‘inputs’: they describe what must be provided to the animals in terms of certain resources such as housing, space, feed, veterinary care and management practices.

But, it is important to know what effect these inputs are having on the welfare of the animals and therefore we need to look at the ‘outcomes’: the impact of these inputs on the health, physical condition and behaviour of the animals themselves. This process is known as ‘welfare outcome assessment’. It is a practical and scientifically informed method of assessment that aims to provide a more objective, accurate and direct picture of animal welfare.

There is a widely recognised need in the food and farming industries for assurance schemes to include welfare outcome assessment to improve animal welfare. Research on welfare outcomes, such as the European-wide Welfare Quality® project has not yet been translated into a system that can be used in commercial inspection and certification schemes. This is a key aim of the AssureWel project, which is developing a standardised method of welfare outcome assessment for the major farm animal species for use within farm assurance schemes including the RSPCA Freedom Food and Soil Association schemes.

See the species sections for the AssureWel measures and assessment methods.

How can welfare outcome assessment be used?

  • To assess the level of welfare achieved for an individual animal, farm or farm assurance scheme.
  • To help compare the effect of different farming systems on animal welfare.
  • To help improve farm assurance standards.
  • To identify and monitor welfare problems and solutions on a farm.
  • To strengthen farm management through self-assessment, feedback and benchmarking.
  • To provide more reliable and direct assurance of animal welfare throughout the food chain, including to consumers.
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