Poultry assurance assessments set to increase

Photo: Hans Princes
Photo: Hans Princes

Increased consumer scrutiny of British agriculture and food production has prompted the UK’s largest assurance scheme to increase its number of poultry meat assessments.

From March 2023, assessments of Red Tractor poultry scheme members are set to increase from every 12 months to every 9 months. Red Tractor argues that the change to the poultry audit cycle forms part of a drive to balance the practicalities of poultry inspections with the need to maintain high levels of biosecurity in the industry.

Avian influenza and supply chain issues

While recognising the last few years have been particularly tough on the sector due to avian influenza and supply chain issues following the transition from the EU and rising inflation, Red Tractor says it is crucial to ensure integrity in the food chain is maintained.

“The unprecedented outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and pandemic-related disruptions over the past few years have caused prolonged disruption to on-farm assessments of poultry members.

“Together, these challenges represent a risk to the confidence that underpins consumer trust in the poultry sector. With the increased scrutiny in British agriculture and food production, our sector board – made of farmers, processors, industry body representatives and industry experts – have agreed that it is important for the industry to demonstrate its commitment to bird safety and welfare,” said Red Tractor.

Audits will go ahead

It means that, from March, a framework of both remote and physical assessments to the poultry audit cycle will be formally introduced at 9-month intervals, enabling audits to still go ahead during periods of high incidences of avian influenza outbreaks when stringent biosecurity measures and potential housing orders are put in place.

The new structure will mean that producers can expect an average of 4 audits every 3 years of membership. Remote assessments will either be conducted through an offline pre-assessment followed by a live-streamed partial assessment, or a live-streamed full assessment.

New biosecurity requirements

The announcement follows new biosecurity standard requirements launched last October which require producers to:

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect reusable equipment if being used between sheds, including vehicles used for bedding.
  • Complete repairs between production cycles unless animal welfare is at risk. Buildings should be checked at each turnaround to ensure housing does not have any leaks or damage. A maintenance log should be kept, recording any damage and repairs.
  • Not move birds between buildings – movement is only permitted if moving from brood house to finishing sites.
  • Ensure that turnaround times are no less than 5 calendar days from the last bird out to the first bird in. Flock depopulation and chick replacement records must be kept.

UK farmers are concerned about the additional measures demanded by Red Tractor across agricultural sectors. This is seen as one reason for the recent launch of the British Farming Union, which has been set up to represent “all farmers and only farmers”.

Tony Mcdougal Freelance Journalist