Source AP ©

EU nations provide chickens with better conditions

European Union nations are going to provide better living conditions to industrially-bred chickens because of animal welfare and consumer concerns.

"Not only will this result in better animal welfare across Europe, but it should also contribute to improving the health of the birds and the quality of their meat," EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said.

Under the agreement, birds will be given more space in the industrial barns and will get guaranteed periods of darkness to sleep, fresh litter and better ventilation through the huge barns.

At the moment, different national rules apply in the 27-nation bloc. Under the agreement, only 33 kilograms (73 pounds) of chickens per square meter will be allowed, raising it to 39 kilograms (86 pounds) if tougher hygiene and welfare standards are met.

It means that the very high density chicken farms that have come under criticism will only be able to operate if they apply the strictest rules.

Awareness of animal health has increased dramatically since a series of food scandals through much of the EU over the past decade. After a transition period, the new rules will apply as of July 2010.

The European Commission had sought tougher standards but was already pleased the EU member nations could back a compromise proposal. Under the agreement, the commission will be able to assess ways to further improve animal welfare and consumer protection in the future.

It took two years to reach the agreement.