“With eggs, we are sitting on a gold mine”

16-11-2015 | | |
Ben Dellaert: "Many will say that the production of eggs is very sustainable and they are absolutely right." [Photo: World Poultry]
Ben Dellaert: "Many will say that the production of eggs is very sustainable and they are absolutely right." [Photo: World Poultry]

Ben Dellaert has been instated as the new chairman of the International Egg Commission (IEC) for a two year term. This makes him the standard-bearer for global egg producers and processors. “With eggs, we are sitting on a gold mine. We just have to make even better use of it.”

Ben Deallaert proudly took over chairmanship from Mexican Cesar de Anda during the recently held IEC Global Leadership Conference in Berlin. Up until that moment, Dellaert had been involved with the organisation for some time as vice-chairman and general member. “I remember my first IEC conference well. I attended it in 1999 as sector director for eggs of the Dutch Product Board PPE. The organisation has become more and more professional. At present, no one can ignore us. At least, as far as eggs are concerned.”

Can you explain how the organisation has changed and what that means in practical terms?

“Firstly, the existing members have done much missionary work to promote the IEC’s growth. At present, the organisation represents more than 300 members from 79 countries. We have traditionally had a strong presence in North America and Europe, but growth has been strongest in China and Latin America in recent years. The IEC has become a sort of  ‘umbrella’ for sub organisations that have spoken with one voice, starting this year in the World Egg Organisation. That name actually says it all: a global egg organisation that represents everything that has to do with eggs. In addition to the IEC, which includes egg producers, organisations of countries, researchers and the related industry, there is the EPI, which counts egg processors as its members. The International Egg Foundation stimulates the production and consumption of eggs in developing countries and the Egg Nutrition Consortium collects and shares knowledge about the nutritional aspects of the egg and raises awareness about them. As the World Egg Organisation, we have become the most important discussion partner for leading institutes such as the United Nations/FAO, the World Health Organization, the OIE, the World Wildlife Fund and several other NGOs and GOs.”

How does the IEC contribute when it talks to these institutions?

“Initially, people ask us about our skills and know-how. For example, we founded the Task Force Avian Influenza within the IEC, initially to distribute knowledge among our members and country members. All available Dutch knowledge about monitoring, prevention and control is shared here to help other countries. Governments and organisations are curious about, for example, closing borders when outbreaks occur. Also, the World Health Organization and the agricultural development branch of the FAO are especially interested in our ability to produce cheap animal protein. As a result, we raise money to set up egg chains in developing countries. Simply put, we do not supply fish, but rather we educate people on how to catch them. Practically speaking, we have the Canaan project in Swaziland and, in December of this year, the first eggs will be laid. These will be boiled and brought to schools and children’s homes. In places where the annual 
consumption of eggs per capita varies between 0 and 1, we do good for society and for the industry’s future. These projects are also very valuable to FAO.”

You recently planted the proverbial seed for a new initiative concerning the sustainability of eggs. Was that necessary?

“That is correct, I have initiated the ‘Global roundtable for sustainable egg production’. Many will say that the production of eggs is very sustainable and they are absolutely right. Yet we must ask ourselves whether we promote this enough. After talking to Carlos Saviani, vice-president of food sustainability of the World Wildlife Fund, we came up with a plan for a so-called ‘roundtable’, after the example the beef sector had previously set. We would like to establish criteria with all players in the chain, from producer to retail, in the areas of animal health, food safety, animal welfare, the environment and economics. In addition, we want to make these as concrete as possible. We need global consensus on these topics and they also need to be quantifiable. This is the only way to improve further and convey this to the public. We have a beautiful and valuable product, but it can always be better.”

On what other areas do you want to focus as chairman?

“Increasing the number of members, especially from developing countries, is a priority for me. As an organisation, we specifically want to show Asia and Latin America what we can do for them in terms of production and marketing eggs and egg products. We want to present ourselves more through our offices in Bangkok and Beijing and we want to reach people through regional conferences that focus on technical aspects. At the end of the day, it is all about trust and showing what we can do. I want to show people our added value, just as I do for our current members. Whether the focus is on avian influenza and its control or the switch from traditional to alternative housing systems, within our organisation there are always people and countries available with experience in these fields.”

Eggs on the global centre stage through the IEC

The International Egg Commission, founded in 1964, speaks for global egg producers and processors. The organisation represents more than 300 top decision-makers from more than 79 countries. The IEC plays an important part in giving the egg industry a voice in globally operating organisations such as the WHO (human health), OIE (animal health) and FAO (agriculture). It also facilitates the sharing of knowledge between all its members. The organisation’s office is located in London and it has offices in Bangkok and Beijing. Director general Julian Madely supervises all daily affairs from London. IEC changes chairmen every two years. Before Dellaerts, Mexican native Cesar de Anda was the face of the organisation. He succeeded the American Joanne Ivy, the first female chairman. The last Dutch chairman was Willem Enthoven, in the 1980s.

Ben Dellaert

Ben Dellaert worked as secretary of the Dutch Product Board Poultry Meat and Eggs (PPE) for years. After PPE’s discontinuance, he became secretary for Avined, Pluimned and Ovoned, the collective organisations for the national poultry and egg sectors. For Ovoned, he is involved with the International Egg Commission, for which he has served as chairman since September with a term of two years.

Fabian Brockotter Editor in Chief, Poultry World