The challenge of incorporating animal welfare in a social life cycle assessment model of European chicken production

Craig W. Tallentire*, Sandra A. Edwards, Tommy Van Limbergen, Ilias Kyriazakis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: There is increasing public concern over standards of farm animal welfare, yet the majority of sustainability studies of livestock have thus far focused only on environmental performance and profitability. Where social analysis has been carried out, there has yet to be a consistent methodology developed that incorporates animal welfare into social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). A framework was developed to assess animal welfare, using conventional broiler chicken meat production in Europe as a case in point.

Methods: Data were collected on stocking density, mortality, and carcass condemnation rate from conventional chicken meat production systems in Europe. The quantitative risk of each welfare indicator was characterised in accordance with the Social Hotspots Database methodology based on best to worst farm performances, i.e. quartiles of the data collected for each indicator. The overall animal welfare impact was assessed using a weighted sum methodology, which accounted for the level of risk animals were exposed to for each indicator and the animal lifespan. From this, a Social Hotspot Index (SHI) could be calculated for the animal welfare impact associated with the functional unit, which was 1 kg of chicken meat production. The animal welfare impact of four European countries was then compared.

Results and discussion: The countries assessed displayed a range of values for overall animal welfare impact; the country with the best animal welfare had a SHI for animal welfare impact of 0.14, whilst the worst had a SHI for animal welfare impact of 0.72. Farms that kept more birds per building had an increased overall animal welfare impact. Animal welfare, determined by negative welfare indicators, was worse in more recently established farm buildings due to increased flock size.

Conclusions: A methodology that incorporates animal welfare indicators into S-LCA was developed that is both scalable and related to welfare assessment frameworks. Although only some specific negative welfare indicators were considered here, the methodology could easily accommodate additional negative indicators and even positive welfare indicators as advancements are made in the understanding of animal welfare. Hence, this study provides a springboard for further development of S-LCA, animal welfare assessment and, ultimately, improved animal welfare in livestock systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1104
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number6
Early online date30 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding information This research was made possible by a Doctoral Training Award from Newcastle University to C.W. Tallentire. The data used for testing the framework were collected under the PROHEALTH project. PROHEALTH received funding from the European Union 7th Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development, and Demonstration under grant agreement n° 613574.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).


  • Animal welfare
  • Broiler chicken
  • Livestock
  • Social life cycle assessment
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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