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Study Seeks Ways to Improve Ostrich Welfare on the Move

10 February 2014

CANADA - Researchers at the University of British Columbia have examined the codes for handling ostriches outside North America as well as common practices in Canada and the US with the aim to improving the welfare of these birds in the future.

Results of new research carreid out in Vancouver will contribute toward developing Codes of Practice for pre-slaughter handling, transportation and slaughter of ostriches in Canada and the United States.

Appropriate management of an ostrich's exposure to stressors during pre-slaughter handling and transport practices can improve its well-being and product quality, according to Bejaei and Chen of the University of British Columbia.

Writing in the current issue of Poultry Science, they report that there is a lack of information about ostrich farming and transportation in North America and also of developed Codes of Practice for ratite transport in Canada and the United States.

Their first objective of our research was to identify current pre-slaughter handling and transport practices of the ostrich industry in Canada and the United States, and to identify potential welfare issues based on the current practices.

The second objective of their research was to review ostrich transport welfare standards and guidelines from Australia, European Union, New Zealand, and South Africa to investigate if those guidelines are applicable to Canadian and American ostrich production systems.

They carried out preliminary producer interviews, on-farm visits and used literature review information sources to design a producer questionnaire that was used to survey producers by Internet and mail surveying methods to identify existing ostrich transport norms in Canada and the United States.

Based on the results of our producer survey and review of the transport standards and guidelines, they concluded that following factors are potential ostrich handling and transport welfare issues in Canada and the United States:

  • lack of scientific information about welfare of ostriches during handling and transport
  • unfamiliarity of handlers and birds with handling and transport practices
  • not considering birds’ social bounds, sex, behaviour, and physical state in mixing them during handling and transport process
  • lack of an established specific maximum water and feed withdrawal duration for ostrich transport in Canada and the United States
  • lack of a specific vehicle designed for ratite transportation in Canada and the United States considering different physical body characteristics of ostriches compared with other species
  • exposure of birds to natural light during transport inside the trailer
  • overcrowding, and
  • long transportation in Canada and the United States.


Bejaei M. and K.M. Cheng. 2014. A survey of current ostrich handling and transport practices in North America with reference to ostrich welfare and transportation guidelines set up in other countries. Poultry Science. 93(2): 296-306. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03417

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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