Poultry Background

A series of common questions and answers for poultry has been developed.

The development of the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry is an important initiative of all governments and poultry industries to guide the development of new, nationally consistent policies to enhance animal welfare arrangements in all Australian states and territories.

The poultry Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) is comprised of representatives from all aspects of poultry care and management. Poultry stakeholder advisory group meetings were held to review the draft standards and guidelines and to provide further guidance including for the public consultation part of the process.

The SAG’s role is to:

  1. provide technical and expert advice on suggested amendments to poultry draft standards and guidelines that will best achieve the identified objectives
  2. identify standards and guidelines that are unanimously agreed by the Stakeholder Advisory Group and those that are not
  3. provide advice on whether particular aspects of animal welfare are best achieved as standards or as guidelines
  4. provide advice on how to resolve outstanding issues
  5. provide additional advice or input as requested by the Project Manager (AHA).

The development process began in June 2015 and is supported and funded by all Governments, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc, the Australian Egg Corporation Limited, the Australian Duck Meat Association Inc, and the Australian Turkey Federation Inc.

Australia’s existing voluntary model codes for the welfare of domestic poultry are now 15 years old. Those for ostriches are 14 years old and those for emus are 11 years old. These codes have not kept pace with community and trading partner expectations and are not mandatory. It is intended that the proposed standards if adopted, will replace the existing Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry 4th edition (2002), plus equivalent Model Codes of Practice for the welfare of poultry at slaughtering establishments, the farming of ostriches and captive-bred emus (‘the existing MCOPs’). The standards will be used as the basis for developing consistent legislation and enforcement across Australia and the guidelines are to be incorporated into national industry quality assurance and verification schemes.

A Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) has been developed and endorsement received by the Office of Best Practice Regulation. The RIS assesses the proposed standards and will incorporate public consultation feedback and changes agreed by the majority of the project SAG. This independently chaired group comprises of government representatives, industry council representatives from all sectors, research and animal welfare organisations.

From an animal welfare perspective, the document will cover all welfare aspects for poultry. This will include poultry meat processing and poultry species such as ducks, turkeys, geese, pheasants, guinea fowl, partridge, quail, ostrich, emu and pigeons.

Each chapter within the standards and guidelines for poultry will contain:

  • Objectives – these are the intended overall outcome(s) for each section of the standards and guidelines
  • Standards – these are the requirements that must be met under animal welfare law
  • Guidelines – these are the recommended practices to achieve desirable animal welfare outcomes; they describe better animal welfare outcomes compared to the standards. Non-compliance with guidelines will not be an offence.


In September 2012, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines — Land Transport of Livestock were developed by AHA, followed by the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Cattle and the Australian Animal Welfare Standards for Sheep in May 2014.

At Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) meeting March 2013, government members agreed to develop a plan for the conversion of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry (4th Edition 2002) (the Code) into new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

At AWC in June 2013, members agreed to commence a full review of the code in recognition of significant advances in husbandry practices, technology, and in available science, since the current code was endorsed in 2002.

At AWC 8 in December 2013, members agreed in principle that the scope of the review should include topics covered in the current MCOP for Domestic Poultry. Members agreed that the review should include processing and all species such as ducks, turkeys, geese, pheasants, guinea fowl, partridge, quail and pigeons. Each species is to have a small separate section, similar to the current code, dealing with individual requirements for these species.

In December 2013 the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS) and AWC were terminated. A new government committee – Animal Welfare Task Group (AWTG) was formed. AWTG reconfirmed the previous AWC decisions including a budget for the project in May 2015.

In 2015, under the previous AAWS, AHA developed standards and guidelines under a member agreed business plan. Government has taken the lead to review the development process. Members also agreed to the appointment of AHA to manage the delivery of the project. NSW DPI was appointed to lead the project in the final endorsed work plan.

The AHA project plan incorporated the AWTG plan and provides further detail on essential elements for members and other stakeholders. Development began.

In 2017/2018, public consultation occurred and on the revision of the standards and guidelines in response to public consultation and other evidence the original timeframes did not anticipate the large number of public submissions (over 167,000), including the range of additional suggestions, evidence and the information presented in the Farmed Bird Welfare Science Review, each of which required proper consideration.

The Animal Welfare Task Group (AWTG) was committed to progressing the process as quickly as possible. However, given strong community and stakeholder interest, and the significant impacts of animal welfare standards on animals, stock people, businesses, the wider community, food supply, biosecurity and land use, it was important to consider all the evidence carefully.

The drafting group revised the draft standards and guidelines, taking into consideration both the public consultation submissions and other information.

In June 2019, the Stakeholder Advisory Group (representing industry, governments, veterinarians, researchers and animal welfare NGOs) were asked to provide advice on the revised standards and guidelines. Areas of dissent on standards and guidelines that could not be resolved by the Stakeholder Advisory Group were provided to the AWTG for decision.

At the October 2019 Agriculture Ministers’ Forum, state and territory Agriculture Ministers agreed to the formation of an independent panel to supervise the final steps in the drafting of new Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

Page updated: December 2020