5 Questions with poultry researcher Tina Widowski
Tina Widowski is a professor with the University of Guelph’s Animal Sciences department and the Egg Farmers of Canada Research Chair in Poultry Welfare.
Tina Widowski has had a long and distinguished career studying farm animal welfare.
She grew up in Chicago and had wanted to become a veterinarian or zoologist, but discovered a love for animal agriculture instead. Farm animal welfare was a relatively new field at the time, and Widowski has greatly contributed to its growth. In 2018, she won the Poultry Science Association Poultry Welfare Research Award.
Why did you study poultry?
When I discovered animal agriculture as an undergraduate student, I was inspired by the notion that I could apply that passion to the study of the millions and millions of animals used for food production. The majority of my lifetime work has been devoted to studying pigs and poultry, as these are the food animals that are kept in the largest groups and in close confinement. My goal is to understand and match their behavioural biology with the ways that they are housed and managed in order to meet their needs and the needs of farmers. My current work with laying hens is the perfect opportunity for this since the industry is transitioning to new housing systems.
List some career milestones.
I finished a B.Sc. degree in Ecology, Ethology and Evolution, followed by a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Animal Science, all at the University of Illinois-Urbana, in 1983, 1984 and 1988. I was appointed in the Faculty of Animal & Poultry Science at the University of Guelph in 1998, and appointed director of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare in 2007. Two years later, I was appointed the University of Guelph Chair of Animal Welfare and two years after that in 2011, I was awarded Research Chair in Poultry Welfare from the Egg Farmers of Canada.
What is your most significant career achievement and why?
My relationships with my students. The most rewarding part of the job is to help young people find their passion, develop their skills, grow and succeed. So many of my students have gone on to successful careers in research and industry and I’m very proud of them.
How would you like to see the industry evolve?
Poultry producers will be facing many changes over the next 20 years. Egg producers will be transitioning to new housing and management systems. Chicken producers will be reducing the use of antimicrobials. All of the feather industries will be looking for ways to ensure environmental, social and economic sustainability. I would like to see the poultry industry view these changes as opportunities. From what I’ve seen, I think that the next generation of poultry farmers will be well-prepared.
What do you do to unwind?
I really enjoy travelling and take every opportunity to see the sights, meet the people and try the foods of all the interesting places around the world that my job takes me to. I also like going for long walks in the forest with my two beautiful yellow Labradors and flying with my husband in our gyroplane.
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