I am now at the 12 month mark working with the global poultry industry. It has been an interesting 12 months and has expanded my view of the poultry industry beyond the United Kingdom. Here my impressions.
My main impression is that across the world, poultry producers are striving to improve performance, reduce reliance on antimicrobials and lift animal welfare.
The power of animal rights activists
There are different drivers to all of these trends. In the US, it is animal rights activists that arguably have the greatest influence. Decades of established poultry farming practice are changing in a matter of months, in some cases. It was caged eggs one year, then antibiotics, now many are demanding slower growing birds.
The industry is fighting back, with the Animal Agriculture Alliance forging ahead telling a good story. But groups such as Peta have wide celebrity backing and deep pockets to fund campaigns.
Closer to home, Dutch animal rights activists have successfully campaigned to take all conventional broilers from the shelves of supermarkets in the country. The broiler industry is fundamentally different, but has adapted.
Fipronil scandal continues to affect farmers
Remaining with the Netherlands, its scandal over Fipronil-tainted eggs continues to have a major impact on farmers. Residues are proving more difficult to remove in many cases, leaving producers with a headache that won’t go away.
The East: Cheap currently wins over welfare
In the eastern hemisphere, many of these concerns are not so pressing. There is still an overriding imperative to produce food as cheaply as possible, and concerns over welfare are less developed. As this issue’s feature on Japan reveals, however, farms are beginning to consider European production systems in anticipation that moods might change.
Medicine use in the East is also under far less scrutiny, but that will surely change if resistance to antibiotics is anywhere near the global threat to human health that many experts warn it is.
The science of gut health
But one of the most striking things I’ve encountered from the global poultry industry is the amount of research, investment and innovation in the science of gut health. Another is that avian influenza affects producers in almost every corner of the planet.
What’s my takeaway thought? The best producers can and are actively looking beyond their own borders to seek out new techniques, trends and information. After all, it’s a big Poultry World out there.