Recently we had a client purchase a Portable CO2 Detector and Alarm to measure CO2 levels in his poultry production facility in Italy. The client wrote, "Due to new EU rules we need to monitor CO2, RH and NH3 levels in the plant. The measurement must be done at the level of the head of the chicken and the process has to be repeated for each stable, therefore a portable instrument is handier (and cheaper) than several fixed measurement stations."
After some research, we found the European Union Council Directive 2007/43/EC, which lays down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production.
2007/43/EC states "The owner or keeper shall ensure that each house of a holding is equipped with ventilation and, if necessary, heating and cooling systems designed, constructed and operated in such a way that the concentration of ammonia (NH3) does not exceed 20 ppm and the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) does not exceed 3,000 ppm measured at the level of the chickens’ heads."
This raised the question, where did the minimum level of 3,000ppm CO2 come from?
A paper in the International Journal of Poultry Science titled, Growth performance and physiological Variables for Broiler Chickens Subjected to Short-Term Elevated Carbon Dioxide Concentrations studied the effects of CO2 on poultry, and concluded that broiler chickens subjected to CO2 concentrations of 3,000 ppm showed virtually no difference from the control group, although subjecting chicks to high levels of CO2 in the first 14 days of life limited growth and increased mortality.
In the paper, Monitoring Environmental Parameters in Poultry Production Facilities, Dr. Corkery agrees, finding that higher levels of CO2 do not impact chick growth, and that 3,000ppm CO2 may be too low a limit for the EU to require.
Why does all this matter? In large scale poultry facilities, energy costs relating to heating and ventilation can account for over half the cost of production. The reduced CO2 requirement being imposed by the EU means increased ventilation and thus higher fuel prices.
No one wants to see live animals living in poor conditions. But a bit of research of the currently published studies seems to indicate that the 3,000ppm CO2 limit (and reporting requirements) may impose an unnecessary burden on poultry farmers in the EU. If this model is left unquestioned, the same limits may be adopted world-wide.