Methods for assessment of keel bone damage in poultry
Keel bone damage (KBD) is a critical issue facing the laying hen industry today as a result of the likely pain leading to compromised welfare and the potential for reduced productivity. Recent reports suggest that damage, while highly variable and likely dependent on a host of factors, extends to all systems (including battery cages, furnished cages, and non-cage systems), genetic lines, and management styles. Despite the extent of the problem, the research community remains uncertain as to the causes and influencing factors of KBD. Although progress has been made investigating these factors, the overall effort is hindered by several issues related to the assessment of KBD, including quality and variation in the methods used between research groups. These issues prevent effective comparison of studies, as well as difficulties in identifying the presence of damage leading to poor accuracy and reliability. The current manuscript seeks to resolve these issues by offering precise definitions for types of KBD, reviewing methods for assessment, and providing recommendations that can improve the accuracy and reliability of those assessments.