Production Systems Inspected by KAT
KAT is involved exclusively with alternative systems of keeping laying hens. This includes barn, free-range and organic production. Eggs from small group poultry housing (cage poultry housing) are not part of the KAT system and do not receive the KAT logo. The rearing of pullets has also been integrated into the KAT system as a preliminary stage of laying hen husbandry since 1 July 2020. From 1 January 2022, only pullets from KAT-certified rearing farms may be supplied to KAT laying farms.
KAT has set up strict criteria for the keeping and rearing of laying hens. The basis of these are the regulations defined by the EU. They take into account the regulations of the German animal welfare – livestock farming directive and other aspects of animal welfare. However, the KAT criteria go beyond the legal requirements.
A new addition is that, since 1 January 2021, KAT has also been supporting the controlled rearing of male chicks from hybrid egg-laying breeds, which are not sorted out after hatching and used for feed, but are instead reared. For this purpose, a guide for rearing farms with clearly defined criteria for the housing conditions has been developed. The aim of KAT is that by spring 2022 all KAT farms that take care of cock rearing are registered and controlled in the KAT system.
A continuous batch-related reporting chain from the hatchery to the laying farm ensures the origin of the laying hens and the whereabouts of the associated male chicks. In addition, since January 2022, KAT has provided an animal welfare assessment tool (feather bonitisation) developed specifically for KAT rearing and laying hen management, which is mandatory for all KAT farms from January 2023.
The ban on beak trimming, initially on a voluntary basis, became a part of the KAT guidelines at the beginning of 2016, to enable farmers to implement the transition early and in a sustained way. After 31st August 2018, no eggs from hens with trimmed beaks may be marketed under the KAT logo.
Other important requirements are that every egg must be stamped with the egg code within the egg farm itself, so that no mistakes are possible in packing stations. In free-range and organic production, conservatories (cold scratching areas) are obligatory, and the goods flow in all KAT farms is thoroughly examined for integrity.
Below are some important criteria for each production method:
The English translation on housing conditions for rearing farms will follow shortly.
KAT Barn Production+
The birds must be able to use the entire hen house at all times. At least one third of the hen house area must be available as a scratching area and must be covered with sufficient litter materials (straw, wood shavings or other natural materials). The hen house must be equipped with the necessary drinking and feeding facilities, nests and perches.
The maximum stocking density is nine hens per square metre of usable space. Hen houses must be divided up so that there is a maximum of 6,000 hens in any one unit.
The total length of perches must be measured so that all animals can sit on them at the same time. A minimum perch length of 15cm per bird is prescribed. The perches must be designed so as to prevent any injuries to the ball of the foot or the claws.
Nests, Nest Floor, Nest Litter
The hens must have unrestricted daily access to the nests during the laying phase. The base of the nest must be made of mouldable material at least 0.5cm thick. Use may be made of individual nests (one nest to every seven hens) or family nests (120 hens per square metre of nesting area).
The availability of natural light must be guaranteed.
KAT Free-Range Production+
Free-range production is subject to the same requirements as barn production, with the added condition that free-range hens are able to use a conservatory and a free-range area during the day.
The free-range area and the popholes must be designed to promote and ensure their use by the hens. This outdoor area must be in direct proximity to the hen house and be directly and easily accessible by the hens during the day.
The free-range area must be planted with vegetation, which should be evenly distributed over the whole area e.g. bushes, hedges or similar, providing the birds with protection and shelter.
Obligatory Conservatory (Cold Scratching Area)
For KAT-approved free-range production, an obligatory requirement is the provision of a cold scratching area of at least 50% of the interior area of the hen house, as used by the birds. This bright and airy cold area can be regarded as a transitional area through to the free-range area, so that the birds can still spend some time outside the hen house itself, for instance when restricted access to the outdoor area is based on an animal health order from the responsible official veterinary surgeon.
The popholes from the hen house into the cold scratching area and the free-range areas must be evenly distributed and available in sufficient number.
KAT Organic Production+
The KAT requirements are based on the provisions of the EU Regulation on Organic Production.
The maximum stocking density for organic production is six hens per square metre of usable space. At least one third of the usable area must be designed as a scratching area. The maximum size per hen house unit is 3,000 hens.
Obligatory Conservatory (Cold Scratching Area)
For KAT-approved organic production, an obligatory requirement is the provision of a cold scratching area of at least 50% of the interior area of the hen house as used by the birds.
The free-range area and the popholes must be designed to promote and ensure use by the hens. This outdoor area must be in direct proximity to the hen house and must be directly and easily accessible by the hens during the day.
The total length of perches must be measured so that all animals can sit on them at the same time. A minimum perch length of 18cm per bird is prescribed. The perches must be designed to prevent any injuries to the ball of the foot or the claws.
Use may be made of individual nests (one nest for every seven hens) or family nests (83 hens per square metre of nesting area).
All feedstuffs must be organically produced and made from non-genetically modified ingredients.