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 2021, KAT has also published a guide for the controlled rearing of male chicks from hybrid egg-laying breeds, which are not sorted out after hatching and used for feed, but are reared instead, with clearly defined criteria on housing conditions. The aim of KAT is that by spring 2022 all KAT-farms that take care of cock rearing will be registered 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 developed specifically for KAT rearing and laying hen management, which is mandatory for all KAT farms from January 2023
Other important requirements are that since 31 August 2018, no more eggs from hens with trimmed beaks may be marketed under the KAT logo, each egg must be stamped with the egg code within the egg farm itself, so that no mistakes are possible in packing stations, conservatories (cold scratching areas) are obligatory for hens in free-range and organic production, and the goods flow plausibilities are checked in detail at all KAT farms.
Below are some important criteria for each production method:
KAT Rearing farms+
The criteria for rearing apply to both conventional and organic pullet rearing as well as to the rearing of cockerels (male laying hybrids).
The farm shall have an appropriate system for the assessment of the flocks based on animal-related characteristics. Based on this system, the rearing farm takes and documents appropriate corrective measures in case of significant problems within the flock. In addition, an animal and technical check including documentation is carried out at least twice a day.
Origin of the animals (stocking/destocking)
The chicks come from KAT-approved hatcheries or KAT-approved pre-rearing facilities. Furthermore, for all KAT flocks that are stocked after 01.01.2022, it must be proven that the male chicks from the respective hatch are either reared in accordance with the KAT specifications or have already been selected in advance using an InOvo sex determination procedure.
During rearing the chicks/young hens were conditioned to the subsequent form of production in the laying hen farm.
Plausibility checks (KAT database)
The number of animals is documented in the KAT database at the time of stocking and destocking. When the cockerels are taken out, the average weights and the cumulative mortality rate of the cockerels at the end of the period is also entered into the database.
The stocking density in conventional rearing is max. 20 animals/m² total utilisable area until 30.06.2024 and max. 18 animals/m² total utilisable area from 01.07.2024.
In organic rearing, the stocking density shall be max. 14 animals/m² total usable area from 01.01.2022.
Manipulable materials/dust baths
In addition to litter, the birds are always provided with other manipulable and alterable material to help keep them occupied. When selecting the materials, care is taken from a biosecurity perspective to ensure that they are hygienically safe.
The birds are given access to perches from their first day of life. At least one third of the perches are raised.
Minimum slaughter age/minimum slaughter weight
The minimum slaughter age is 70 days AND, regardless of breed, a minimum average weight of 1,300 g at the time of destocking is reached. The meat from the animals is processed into food.
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. At least 50 % of the perches shall be placed at different heights and the perches must be designed so as to prevent any injuries to the footpads 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. Direct sunlight must be avoided. Permanent darkening of the light openings (e.g. by painting or covering with coloured foils) or the use of monochromatic light is only permitted in exceptional cases with veterinary indication
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 animals shall have access to an free-range area of at least 4 m²/animal in relation to the stocked number of animals. 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.
The animals shall be allowed to go out as soon as possible after stocking, but no later than 21 days after the start of laying. The period of use of the free-range area shall be documented daily.
From a distance of more than 150 m to the nearest outlet, at least 4 shelters per hectare shall be distributed evenly over the entire free-range area.
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 animals can use the entire henhouse space at any time. 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 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. All henhouses, including cold scratching areas, are partitioned with herd dividers so that a group size of 3,000 animals is not exceeded.
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 animals shall have access to an free-range area of at least 4 m²/animal in relation to the stocked number of animals. The animals shall be allowed to go out as soon as possible after stocking, but no later than 21 days after the start of laying. The period of use of the free-range area shall be documented daily.
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. Separation into units of 3.000 must be ensured in organic production by means of appropriate fencing, also on the free-range area.
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 foot pads or the claws. At least 50% of the perches are placed at different heights.
The nests must be available to the animals without restriction on a daily basis. The nest floor must be made of deformable material with a minimum height of 0.5 cm. 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.