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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » ESQRU » Research » Research Project #438866

Research Project: Cage-free Pullet Density: Challenges in the Field

Location: ESQRU

Project Number: 6040-32420-003-002-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2020
End Date: Jul 31, 2022

Objective:
Little is known regarding the impact of cage-free pullet rearing on resulting hen health and egg food safety. The overall objectives of the project are: 1) Determine horizontal transmission of foodborne pathogens in cage-free laying hens reared in various commercial cage-free management systems. 2) Determine organ invasion of foodborne pathogens in cage-free laying hens reared in various commercial cage-free management systems.

Approach:
Commercial genetic lines of laying hens will be reared under commercial pullet rearing programs in cage-free housing systems. The hens will then be challenged with Salmonella spp. in an animal Biosafety Level 2 cage-free production facility. Various studies will be conducted to determine the impact of cage-free rearing conditions on horizontal transmission within the flock, organ invasion, and vertical transmission of the challenge organism into eggs laid by the hens. The specific rearing criteria will include: stocking density, hen age at housing in the laying facility, rear-in-place, and potentially other cage-free pullet management strategies under consideration by the egg industry over the course of the agreement. Salmonella Enteritidis will be the challenge organism but may be changed if other organisms becomes a concern in the U..egg supply over the course of the agreement.