Pre-slaughter cattle welfare indicators for use in commercial abattoirs with voluntary monitoring systems: A systematic review

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Animal welfare has become an important subject of public, economic and political concern, leading to the need to validate indicators that are feasible to use at abattoirs. A systematic review was carried out, which identified 72 cattle welfare indicators (CWI) that were classified into four categories (physiological, morphometric, behavioral and meat quality). Their validity and feasibility for use in abattoirs were evaluated as potential measures of cattle welfare during transportation to the abattoir and at the abattoir itself. Several highly valid indicators were identified that are useful to assess welfare at abattoirs, including body condition score, human-animal interactions, vocalizations, falling, carcass bruising, and meat pH. In addition, some intermediate valid indicators are useful and should be investigated further. Information along the food chain could be used systematically to provide a basis for a more-risk-based meat inspection. An integrated system based on the use of key indicators defined for each inspection step with the setting of alarm thresholds could be implemented.