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Weekly Overview: How to Encourage More Sustainable Choices

21 November 2013

ANALYSIS - Ways of encouraging improved sustainability in animal protein production have figured in the news in the last week - whether by the introduction of taxation on less sustainable options or better communication to consumers and other stakeholders. At the recent Latin American Poultry Congress, it emerged that poultry producers in Central America are fearful that the avian flu virus could soon spread from Mexico, where the disease appears to be becoming endemic.

Taxes and a new system of value-added tax (VAT) could be used to stimulate sustainable agriculture, food production and consumption.

The concept would see consumers directed towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly products through taxation.

To ensure that the environmental impact of products is reflected in their costs, a new study published by the European Commission puts forward recommendations for a system of green VAT based on life cycle assessment (LCA).

This new economic tool would encourage sustainable production and consumption, the researchers claim.

The paper, published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, proposes a system whereby VAT, calculated based on the environmental impact of the whole life cycle of the product, is used to guide consumers towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly products.

A recent newspaper article in the UK suggests that farm animal welfare consistently ignored in sustainability reports from leading companies.

The authors, from Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, called on companies to report on all issues stakeholders care about, not just those considered most material. Failure to do so suggests there is something to hide, they say.

Commenting on the article, Øistein Thorsen, Principal Consultant for, told ThePoultrySite: "There is a pretty strong link between sustainability and animal welfare: if you are in the business of producing animal protein, the backbone of your business is the animals you farm. So you could argue the health and sustainability of your business ultimately starts with the health and welfare of those animals."

Turning to news of avian flu, the highly pathogenic H7N3 virus that is circulating in Mexico is of great concern to the Central American poultry industry, particularly Guatemala, according to participants at the XXIII Latin American Poultry Congress, which took place last week in El Salvador. There is reported to be considerable unregulated trade in eggs from Mexico to Guatemala, from where it is feared that the virus could easily spread across the region.

A low-pathogenic avian flu virus has been detected at a small poultry farm in Thuringen in central Germany.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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