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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



In the past, the main focus of animal production and related research in Europe was on ensuring an adequate food supply at a reasonable price, which led to increasingly intensive husbandry methods. When prompted, consumers in different EU Member States expressed grave reservations about how farm animals are kept. Problems such as BSE or swine fever increase their concerns and emphasise the fact that 'you are what you eat'. A growing number of consumers today want to be reassured that the animals that produce their food have been raised under humane conditions and with proper regard for the environment. Animal welfare has become both an integral part of the concept of food quality and a priority theme in the EU's Sixth Framework Programme.

A major new project, Integration of Animal Welfare in the Food Quality Chain (WELFARE QUALITY), aims to improve food quality by ensuring the welfare of farm animals. It will create standards for assessing the welfare of farm animals throughout Europe and develop practical strategies to improve it. A product information system will be drawn up to assure consumers that their food has been produced according to ethically sound procedures. Forty organisations and university departments throughout Europe will contribute to this five-year Integrated Project, using expertise from many areas of science.


WELFARE QUALITY will investigate ways to improve the welfare of different species on the farm, for example by relieving the boredom and anti-social behaviour of pigs and chickens reared in groups. Breeding programmes will play a part in this improvement, as will better contact between humans and animals, and provision of a more stimulating environment that allows animals to express their natural behaviour. Innovative housing design is required to significantly improve animal welfare. Reducing stress, anxiety and boredom will not only enhance the animals' health and welfare but will also lead to better product quality.

The effect of welfare improvements will be interpreted through performance measures based on the actual health, physiology, behaviour and disease resistance of animals. Some methods of monitoring these conditions are already in use, and more will be developed. A continuous information loop will be established in which the results of the monitoring will be used to suggest practical welfare improvements. These are fed back to the farmer who can then take up the recommendations. The benefits to animal welfare should show up in future monitoring, the goal being to develop a European standard for assessing the welfare of animals on farms.


Shoppers want more and more details about the source and quality of the food they buy. The project will analyse consumer concerns about animal welfare and find out what information they want on their packaging. In this 'fork-to-farm' approach, clear marketing and profiling of products will allow consumers to make an informed choice and to support animal welfare policies. A transparent and standardised information system will be vital to countries joining the EU to help them meet the requirements of European markets.

Europe is leading the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in its commitment to introducing animal welfare into the conditions for international trade.

WELFARE QUALITY will set up a dialogue between the stakeholders, including the public, academia, industry, welfare organisations and government, using traditional publications, school visits and the internet. Education and training will also be offered to key players along the supply chain.

List of Partners

  • ID-Lelystad (The Netherlands)
  • University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (Austria)
  • Veterinary University of Vienna (Austria)
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
  • Vyzkumny Ustav Zivocisne Wyroby (Czech Republic)
  • University of Kassel (Germany)
  • Danish Institute of Agricultural Science (Denmark)
  • Royal veterinary and agricultural university (Denmark)
  • Institut de recerca i tecnologlia agroalimentaries (Spain)
  • Universita Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain)
  • Institut Technique du Porc (France)
  • Coopérative Interdepartementale Aube, Loiret, Yonne, Nievre (France)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)
  • Institut de L'Elevage (France)
  • L' Institut Supérieur d'Agriculture Lille (France)
  • France Limousin Selection (France)
  • Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6 (France)
  • University of Toulouse le Mirail (France)
  • Teagasc (Ireland)
  • University of Milan (Italy)
  • University of Parma (Italy)
  • University of Padova (Italy)
  • University of Pisa (Italy)
  • Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali (Italy)
  • Research Institute for Animal Husbandry (The Netherlands)
  • Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
  • National Institute for Consumer Research (Norway)
  • Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research Institute (Norway)
  • Agricultural University of Norway (Norway)
  • Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (Sweden)
  • Göteborg University (Sweden)
  • University of Lund (Sweden)
  • Stockholm University (Sweden)
  • University of Wales, Cardiff (UK)
  • University of Exeter (UK)
  • Roslin Institute (UK)
  • Scottish Agricultural College (UK)
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne (UK)
  • University of Bristol (UK)
  • University of Reading (UK)
Full title:
Integration of animal welfare in the food quality chain: from public concern to improved welfare and transparent quality
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Harry Blokhuis, ID-Lelystad,,
EC Scientific Officer:
Judit Krommer,
EU contribution:
€ 14.4M
Integrated Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top