Skip to main content Accessibility help

Effects of pasture management on poultry welfare and meat quality in organic poultry production systems

  • E.N. SOSSIDOU (a1), A. DAL BOSCO (a2), C. CASTELLINI (a3) and M.A. GRASHORN (a4)


Outdoor access is a defining characteristic of organic poultry that provides poultry with fresh grass, insects and worms that may lead to enhanced product quality. There is evidence that meat from pastured-based poultry may contain some additional nutritional benefits through lower fat content, as well as higher vitamin and mineral contents. At the same time, under good pasture management, bird health and welfare can be achieved. This review gives an overview on the pasture management practices that can be employed to prevent potential risks in organic poultry systems such as uncontrolled weather conditions or mortality due to predators. This paper discusses the various effects of pasture management on (a) poultry health and welfare, including physical comfort, absence of hunger and disease, possibilities to perform motivated behaviours and (b) meat quality, including both consumer and nutritional quality and sensory attributes as related to pasture synthesis and intake.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author:


Hide All
APPLEBY, M.C. and HUGHES, B.O. (1991) Welfare of laying hens in cages and alternative systems: environmental, physical and behavioural aspects. World's Poultry Science Journal 47: 109-128.
ATTRA (1998) Sustainable Chicken Production, Livestock Production Guide,
BELLOF, G. and SCHMIDT, E. (2007) Ökologische Geflügelmast -Lösungsmöglichkeiten für eine 100% Bio-Fütterung. In Wiesinger, K. (Ed.) Angewandte Forschung und Beratung für den ökologischen Landbau in Bayern, Schriftenreihe der Bayerischen Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft, Freising 3: 23-33.
BOKKERS, E.A.M. and KOENE, P. (2003) Behaviour of fast- and slow growing broilers to 12 weeks of age and the physical consequences. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 81: 59-72.
BOZAKOVA, N., GERZILOV, V., POPOVA-RALCHEVA, S. and SREDKOVA, V. (2011) Welfare assessment of three chicken breeds (Gallus gallus domesticus) under different production systems. Biotechnology in Animal Husbandry 27: 1705-1713.
BURBAUGH, B., TORO, E. and GERNAT, A. (2010) Introduction to Pasture-Raised Poultry: Maximizing Foraging Behavior, Animal Science Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, University of Florida, AN237.
CASTELLINI, C., BERRI, C., LE BIHAN-DUVAL, E. and MARTINO, G. (2008) Quality attributes and consumer perception of organic and free range poultry meat. World's Poultry Science Journal 64: 500-512.
CASTELLINI, C., MUGNAI, C. and DAL BOSCO, A. (2002) Effect of organic production system on broiler carcass and meat quality. Meat Science 60: 219-225.
CHAVEIRO-SOARES, M.A., BRÁS, J.L.A., MENDES, I., GAMA, L.T., PRATES, J.A.M., FERREIRA, L.M.A. and FONTES, C.M.G.A. (2008) Pasture intake improves the performance and meat sensory attributes of free-range broilers. Poultry Science 87: 71-79.
CHISHOLM, J., TROTT, D., ZIVNUSKA, C., COX, J. and SEIPEL, M. (2003) Pastured poultry research bulletin, Kirksville, MO: Truman State University.
CRANDALL, P.G., SEIDEMAN, S., RICKE, S.C., O'BRYAN, C.A., FANATICO, A.F. and RAINEY, R. (2009) Organic poultry: Consumer perceptions, opportunities, and regulatory issues. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 29: 765-802.
DAL BOSCO, A., MUGNAI, C., RUGGERI, S., MATTIOLI, S. and CASTELLINI, C. (2012) Fatty acid composition of meat and estimated indices of lipid metabolism in different poultry genotypes reared under organic system. Poultry Science 91: 2039-2045.
DAL BOSCO, A., MUGNAI, C., ROSATI, A., PAOLETTI, A., CAPORALI, S. and CASTELLINI, C. (2014) Effect of range enrichment on performance, behaviour and grass intake of organic chickens. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 23: 137-145.
DAL BOSCO, A., MUGNAI, C., SIRRI, F., ZAMPARINI, C. and CASTELLINI, C. (2010) Assessment of a global positioning system to evaluate activities of organic chickens at pasture. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 19: 213-218.
DAWKINS, M.S., COOK, P.A., WHITTINGHAM, M.J., MANSELL, K.A. and HARPER, A.E. (2003) What makes free-range broiler chickens range? In situ measurement of habitat preference. Animal Behaviour 66: 151-160.
DEFRA (2002) Final Project Report CSC15 AW 0221 Extensive table bird production-health and parasite status monitoring,
EC (1999) Council Regulation (EC) No 1804/1999 and supplementing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring on agricultural products and feedstuffs to include livestock production. Official Journal of the European Communities 24.98.1999, Brussels. L. 2221-28.
EC (2007) Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing. Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91, Official Journal of the European Communities, L189/1 (20.07.2007), pp.1-23.
ECOA Animal Welfare Task Force (2009) Canadian standards for organic production (CAN/CGSB 32.310-2006 Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards),
ENGVALL, A. (2001) May organically farmed animals pose a risk for Campylobacter infections in humans? Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica Supplementum 95: 85-87.
FERRANTE, V., BAROLI, D., LOLLI, S. and DI MAURO, F. (2009) Broilers welfare, health and production in organic and conventional systems. 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, Modena, Italy. Archived at
GLATZ, P.C., RU, Y.J., MIAO, Z.H., WYATT, S.K. and RODDA, B.J. (2005) Integrating poultry into a crop and pasture farming system. International Journal of Poultry Science 4: 187-191.
GORDON, S.H. and CHARLES, D.R. (2002) Niche and organic chicken products. Nottingham, UK: University Press.
GRANDALL, P.G., SEIDEMAN, S., RICKE, S.C., O'BRYAN, C.A., FANATICO, A.F. and RAINEY, R. (2009) Organic poultry: consumer perceptions, opportunities, and regulatory issues. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 18: 795-802.
HORSTED, K., ALLESEN-HOLM, B.H., HERMANSEN, J.E. and KONGSTED, A.G. (2012) Sensory profiles of breast meat from broilers reared in an organic niche production system and conventional standard broilers. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 92: 258-265.
HEUER, O.E., PEDERSEN, K., ANDERSEN, J.S. and MADSEN, M. (2001) Prevalence and antimicrobial susceptibility of thermophilic Campylobacter in organic and conventional broiler flocks. Letters in Applied Microbiology 33: 269-274.
HUBER-EICHER, B. and WECHSLER, B. (1997) Feather pecking in domestic chicks: its relation to dustbathing and foraging. Animal Behaviour 54: 757-768.
HUBER, H.U. (1987) Untersuchungen zum Einfluss von Tages-und Kunstlicht auf das Verhalten von Hühnern. Ph. D. Thesis, ETH Zürich.
HUGHES, B.O. and DUNCAN, I.J.H. (1972) The influence of strain and environmental factors upon feather pecking and cannibalism in fowls. British Poultry Science 13: 525-547.
KÜHN, J., SCHUTKOWSKI, A., KLUGE, H., HIRCHE, F. and STANGL, G.I. (2014) Free-range farming: A natural alternative to produce vitamin D-enriched eggs. Nutrition 30: 481-484.
LAING, P.W. (1988) Diseases of free range birds. World's Poultry Science Journal 44: 72-74.
LORENZ, C., KANY, T. and GRASHORN, M.A. (2013) Method to estimate feed intake from pasture in broilers and laying hens. Archiv für Geflügelkunde 77: 160-165.
MCCREA, B.A., TONOOKA, K.H., VANWORTH, C., BOGGS, C.L., ATWILL, E.R. and SCHRADER, J.S. (2006) Prevalence of Campylobacter and Salmonella species on farm, after transport, and at processing in specialty market poultry. Poultry Science 85: 136-143.
MERRITT, S., KELLY, R., MOAKES, S. and LITTLE, A. (2010) Organic poultry production for meat. Organic Farming Technical Guide,
MOYLE, J.R., ARSI, K., WOO-MING, A., ARAMBEL, H., FANATICO, A., BLORE, P.J., CLARK, F.D. and DONOGHUE, D.J. (2014) Growth performance of fast-growing broilers reared under different types of production systems with outdoor access: Implications for organic and alternative production systems. Journal of Applied Poultry Research doi: 10.3382/japr.2013-00882.
NAPOLITANO, F., CASTELLINI, C., NASPETTI, S., PIASENTIER, E., GIROLAMI, A. and BRAGHIERI, A. (2013) Consumer preference for chicken breast may be more affected by information on organic production than by product sensory properties. Poultry Science 92: 820-826.
NICOL, C.J., LINDBERG, A.C., PHILLIPS, A.J., POPE, S.J., WILKINS, L.J. and GREEN, L.E. (2001) Influence of prior exposure to wood shavings on feather pecking, dustbathing and foraging in adult laying hens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science73: 141-155.
NØRGAARD-NIELSEN, G., VESTERGAARD, K. and SIMONSEN, H.B. (1993) Effects of rearing experience and stimulus enrichment on feather damage in laying hens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 38: 345-352.
OLSSON, I.A.S. and KEELING, L.J. (2005) Why in earth? Dustbathing behaviour in jungle and domestic fowl reviewed from a Tinbergian and animal welfare perspective. Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science 93: 259-282.
PONTE, P.I.., MENDES, I., QUARESMA, M., AGUIAR, M.N., LEMOS, J.P., FERREIRA, L.M., SOARES, M.A., ALFAIA, C.M., PRATES, J.A. and FONTES, C.M. (2008) Cholesterol levels and sensory characteristics of meat from broilers consuming moderate to high levels of alfalfa. Poultry Science 83: 810-814.
PONTE, P.I.P., ROSADO, C.M.C., CRESPO, J.P., MOURÃO, J.L., MIAO, Z.H., GLATZ, P.C. and RU, Y.J. (2004) Free-range poultry production: A review. Asian-Australian Journal of Animal Science 18: 1-20.
REITER, K. and BESSEI, W. (1995) . Influence of training on the locomotor ability of fast and slow growing broilers. Aktuelle Arbeiten zur artgemassen Tierhaltung KTBL - Schrift 370, Darmstadt: 206-217.
RSPCA (2011) RSPCA Welfare Standards for Laying Hens and Chicken.
RODENBURG, T.B. and KOENE, P. (2007) The impact of group size on damaging behaviours, aggression, fear and stress in farm animals. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 103: 205-214.
RUIS, M.A.W., COENEN, E., VAN HARN, J., LENSKENS, P. and RODENBURG, T.B. (2004) Effect of an outdoor run and natural light on welfare of fast growing broilers, in: HÄNNINEN, L. & VALROS, A. (Eds) Proceedings 38th International Congress of the ISAE, pp. 255 (Helsinki, Finland).
SHENGHUI, C., BEILEI, G., ZHENG, J. and MENG, J. (2005) Prevalence and Antimicrobial Resistance of Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella Serovars in Organic Chickens from Maryland Retail Stores. Applied Environmental Microbiology 71: 4108-4111.
SOSSIDOU, E.N. and ELSON, H.A. (2009) Hens’ welfare to egg quality: a European perspective. World's Poultry Science Journal 65: 709-718.
SOSSIDOU, E.N., DAL BOSCO, A., ELSON, H.A. and FONTES, C.M.G.A. (2011) Pasture based systems for poultry production: implications and perspectives. World's Poultry Science Journal 67: 47-58.
SOSSIDOU, E.N., ROSE, S.P., HALL, N.W. and TSERVENI-GOUSSI, A. (2010) Effects of composted vegetable waste as soil medium in free-range laying hens‘ production systems on birds‘ behaviour, soil structure, grass cover and nematode population. Archiv für Geflügelkunde 74: 81-87.
SPOOLDER, H.A.M. (2007) Animal welfare in organic farming systems. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 87: 2741-2746.
SUNDRUM, A. (2001) Organic livestock farming. A critical review. Livestock Production Science 67: 207-215.
VAN DE WEERD, H.A., KEATINGE, R. and RODERICK, S. (2009) A review of key health-related welfare issues in organic poultry production. World's Poultry Science Journal 65: 649-684.
WALKER, A. and GORDON, S. (2003) Intake of nutrients from pasture by poultry. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 62: 253-256.
ZELTNER, E. and MAURER, V. (2009) Welfare of organic poultry. Proceedings of 8th Poultry Welfare Symposium, Cervia, Italy, pp. 104-112.


Effects of pasture management on poultry welfare and meat quality in organic poultry production systems

  • E.N. SOSSIDOU (a1), A. DAL BOSCO (a2), C. CASTELLINI (a3) and M.A. GRASHORN (a4)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed