The Australian red meat industry is moving to develop a benchmarking tool to measure animal welfare and demonstrate its continuous improvement in a new research project now underway.
The Welfare Benchmarking and Management project is one of 10 projects to be funded by the Strategic Partnership for Animal Welfare Research, Development and Adoption (RD&A).
The Partnership is a collaboration between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) through the MLA Donor Company (MDC), and some of the country’s leading research bodies to undertake ground-breaking projects focused on animal welfare.
MLA General Manager – Research, Development & Innovation, Sean Starling, said the five-year Welfare Benchmarking and Management project would develop a framework for risk assessment, monitoring and data analysis in order to improve welfare management of cattle and sheep as they move through the supply chain.
“The project is built on the concept of welfare performance as a continuum, rather than a pass/fail assessment. This change in the approach to welfare should enable industry to engage in ongoing improvement of practices that affect animal welfare,” Mr Starling said.
“Dr Jim Rothwell, outgoing MLA Program Manager – Animal Health, Welfare & Biosecurity, is to be acknowledged for his leadership and implementation of this initiative.
“Securing ongoing consumer and community support for the red meat industry by continuously improving animal welfare is a key priority of the livestock production sector.
“Animal welfare is one of the core pillars of the Meat Industry Strategic Plan (MISP) 2020 and one of the six strategic pillars of MLA’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020, and this project directly addresses that priority.
“By developing this framework, the industry can demonstrate how it is monitoring and improving animal welfare. The evidence generated through applying the process may allow the development of new products and will enable livestock industries to meet market demands for welfare assured products.”
The project is being led by Principal Research Scientist, Dr Caroline Lee, CSIRO Armidale, in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and The University of Melbourne.