The U.S. chicken industry has come together on a specific set of expectations that will ensure that the birds they raise are taken care of with the highest standards starting at hatch. Since healthy, top-quality animals are needed for food, proper treatment is not only an ethical obligation, but it just makes good business sense.

To assist the people and the companies who produce and process chickens for food, the National Chicken Council developed the NCC Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist which have been widely adopted within the chicken industry. These guidelines cover every phase of the chicken’s life and offers science-based recommendations for proper treatment.

After a significant review process, NCC’s guidelines were once again certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO), a leading authority on animal welfare auditing who provides high quality training and certification credentials for auditors and audits.

Changes made to the NCC Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist were primarily clarifications to assist auditors making assessments onsite.  Those clarifications are summarized below.

Audit Section Animal Observation Records Change Broiler Broiler Breeder
Hatchery Operations X X Hatchery Operations section was omitted from the guidelines and audit checklist.  Instead the primary breeder companies provide a certificate of compliance. X
Growout Operations X Nutrition & Feeding – Verify the feed mill is registered with FDA and/or they have a documented GMP’s for feed production. X X
Growout Operations X Comfort & Shelter – A written biosecurity program must be designed, established and implemented to minimize any negative impacts on bird welfare and protect flock health. X
Growout Operations X Health & Veterinary Care – Flocks must be inspected at least twice daily and all mortality must be removed at least once daily.  Verify that mortality is recorded daily. X X
Growout Operations X Health Care & Monitoring – Birds that cannot access feed and water for normal growth and development must be humanely euthanized.  Verify that culling is being performed by reviewing the mortality sheet. X
Catching & Transportation X A company must have a written plan for handling birds unfit for transport.  Birds unfit for transport must be humanely euthanized. X
Catching & Transportation X Auditors must observe a minimum of five and a maximum of 10 cages being loaded and record any instances of gross mishandling during the catching, handling and loading process. X
Catching & Transportation X Examine a minimum of five and a maximum of 10 trailer loads to ensure all birds are in a single layer. X
Catching & Transportation X Given that birds may move during transportation, transport modules are to be evaluated both at the farm to ensure they are in a single layer and right side up and at the processing plant to ensure that birds are in a single layer only. X
Processing Operations X Shackling & Stunning – This section should be repeated for each shackling line (or stunning / slaughter line) as applicable.  This clarifies that 500 birds are to be evaluated on each shackling line. X
Processing Operations X Water-Bath Stunning – Observe 500 birds per line after water-bath stunning.  Verify that the equipment is functioning properly, and birds are being rendered insensible. X
Processing Operations X Paw Scoring – Paw scoring should occur at the processing plant and that score is applied to the Growout Operations section. X

Visit for more information and the complete checklists of the NCC Broiler and Broiler Breeder Welfare audit checklists.