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Animal welfare in the context of sustainability decision-making: Methods development and application for the Canadian egg industry

2021 CPRF,Layers
Across Canada, the egg industry is currently undergoing a transition away from conventional housing systems in favour of alternative (i.e., enriched cage, single- and multi-tier free run, free range, and organic) production systems. This transition has significant implications for the sustainability of Canadian egg production. Previous work using life cycle assessment (LCA), a holistic assessment methodology that accounts for the cumulative resource demands and impacts of a product throughout its life cycle, has indicated that large trade-offs exist in environmental impacts across different housing systems per unit of eggs produced. However, significant animal welfare trade-offs also exist across housing systems, which must be considered alongside environmental impacts to ensure net-positive sustainability outcomes. To facilitate this consideration, a methodology was developed for integration of animal welfare assessment of laying hens into the LCA framework, representing just the third published attempt at this goal. This methodology was applied to the Canadian egg industry, producing results in line with expectations based on the animal welfare literature. This work provides a solid foundation for continued research into the animal welfare and environmental impacts of egg production, which will support robust sustainability decision making as the industry continues to navigate this transitionary period.
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animal welfare,layers,sustainability
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University of British Columbia

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