The health and well-being of farm animals is an important and often hotly contested issue. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agriculture Research Service says it’s important to learn how to measure animal well-being so that producers and consumers will have the information they need to evaluate management practices and determine which techniques best assure the well-being of food animals.
Concerns regarding the well-being of farm animals include, but are not limited to, the use of battery cages for laying hens and of crates for pregnant sows and veal calves. Another concern often expressed is whether confinement operations limit animals' ability to live naturally and if this has subsequent effects of the quality of meat produced.
Understanding how food animals are affected by the stress caused by social and environmental factors could help improve both production efficiency and animal well-being. The USDA points out that such research will benefit animals, producers and, ultimately, consumers by reducing animal health-care costs and by improving food-production efficiencies. Finally, the USDA cautions that a lack of sensitivity to animal welfare issues could fuel negative domestic marketing and, in world markets, be turned into an artificial trade barrier to animal products.