Challenging consumers with the facts

06-06-2014 | |
Challenging consumers with the facts

Two weeks ago VIV Europe was held in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Unlike four years ago when the Icelandic volcano ash cloud completely spoiled the show, this edition of VIV Europe was one of its kind and possibly better than ever before. A very professional audience from all-over the world travelled to Utrecht to witness the latest developments in the poultry business and meet with the major suppliers.

But VIV Europe was not just a display of new products. Personally, I had the privilege of hosting an ‘excellence¬† field tour’. Around 60 poultry professionals from 22 countries benefitted from the opportunity to visit the impressive Lagerwey hatchery, the Netherlands, including their HatchBrood division. The tour also included a visit to the Rondeel alternative layer housing farm. For non-Dutch, all very interesting, professional and informative places to visit. And a pleasant opportunity for people of many nationalities to meet and exchange thoughts and experiences.

At VIV itself, various prominent speakers were present during the Rabobank VIP evening, as well as at the official opening ceremony. One of them was Dr Aalt Dijkhuizen, formerly CEO of Wageningen University and Research and nowadays a board member of De Heus animal nutrition. Aalt Dijkhuizen addressed the audience with some key figures about productivity in agriculture. “Over the past 50 years tremendous improvement has been made,” he stated. “And it is a misperception that high productivity would cause high greenhouse gas emissions. On the contrary, the opposite is true. The higher productivity and efficiency, the lower GHG-emissions. Scientific research has proved that organic broiler growing causes 60% more emissions than regular growing methods. World Wildlife fund is also clear on that. They have found that 20-25% of farmers with the lowest productivity, cause 50% of the environmental impact. So let’s give room to the best ones!” Dijkhuizen said.

In his summarising remarks, Dijkhuizen stated that the demand for food keeps increasing, while the available land will even further decrease.

The clear conclusion is that higher production is needed, whereby productivity and efficiency are key factors. Animal welfare and footprint are conflicting issues. Yet, the ultimate choice is the consumer’s,” Dijkhuizen concluded his presentation.

One of those consumers is Tommy Wieringa, Dutch writer of novels and newspaper columns. He took the chance to visit VIV with his young daughter, apparently hoping to experience the romantic side of poultry farming. However that was not to be. After having seen the new revolutionary Hatch Care early feeding system of HatchTech, he wrote a very negative column in a daily newspaper, in which he expressed his full aversion of what he and his daughter experienced. And blaming HatchTech for ignoring and rejecting mother nature. Of course he didn’t dive into the enormous progress which is continuously being made in terms of animal welfare, productivity and sustainability. Not just by HatchTech, but by many suppliers to the industry. HatchTech is just an example and the ‘poor victim’ of the attack by the columnist.

But what a misperception again! In his newspaper column, Tommy Wieringa writes that he and his daughter would have loved to seeing mother hen roaming around in free nature with a coop of chicks around her, rather than seeing chicks hatching in a machine with immediate and full access to feed and water under proper lighting conditions. Without having any idea of course, about practices of the past and the enormous welfare progress which has been made in recent years and which is still being made. Understandably, he didn’t know how to explain this reality to his innocent daughter.

Regrettably Wieringa will have been unaware of the presentation of Aalt Dijkhuizen. But it makes the gap between the poultry business and the consumer painfully and very visible again.

There is still much work to do to explain to the consumer the true situation in the poultry business. And the need for productivity and efficiency to feed the growing world population. Among which Tommy Wieringa!

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Ad Bal Freelance journalist