ANALYSIS - Welfare of US broiler chicken has taken a step forward this week with the publication of new guidelines covering broiler growing from hatching to slaughter, writes Jackie Linden, while in Taiwan, new rules are being trialled on layer welfare. Exports of chicken, turkey and eggs by the United States all broke records in 2013 and in Germany, chicken meat production was more that five per cent higher than in the year before.
In what it describes as "the most comprehensive guidelines to date for the well-being of chickens", the US National Chicken Council (NCC) has released the 2014 Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist.
“The chicken industry has come together on a specific set of expectations that will continue to ensure the birds we raise are taken care of with the highest standards starting at hatch,” commented NCC's President.
The new guidelines: increase emphasis on corporate commitment; require internal and external auditing for animal welfare; require increased oversight by veterinarians, service technicians and live production managers; provide more details on acceptable euthanasia practices from the hatchery to the processing plant; provide new requirements to make sure the chickens are properly monitored for healthy legs; require stunning procedures to be more effective; change the audit scoring system to emphasise each step on the process from the hatchery to the processing plant, and highlight the implications of non-conformances to the guidelines.
Also on welfare, minimum egg production standards are being made available for farmers to trial for a three-month period in Taiwan, despite likely market ramifications.
Animal activists are using religion and children as two powerful tools to wage war against the livestock industry, and producers and their industry need to recapture the moral high ground in raising livestock, according to Dr Nelson Kloosterman.
To do that they need to think stewardship, he told a recent pork industry conference in Canada in an insight into how those groups operate.
Still on sustainability issues, Iowa State University faculty have been studying chicken genetics to fight hunger and poverty in Africa. Researchers have been studying the genetic make-up of chickens in Africa in an effort to improve nutrition and alleviate food scarcity across the continent.
Turning to market news, US exports of poultry meat and eggs reached a new record in value in 2013, up three per cent over 2012 to $5.862 billion. Records were set for each of the sectors - chicken, turkey and eggs - and, for the first time, Mexico was the top destination for these products.
In 2013, commercial meat production in Germany was just under 8.1 million tonnes, an increase of 0.4 per cent over the previous year, according to provisional but official German statistics. While there was a 5.4 per cent gain for chicken, duck meat experienced a double-digit reduction.
And finally, on bird flu news, China reports finding the low-pathogenic H7N9 flu virus at five more markets in four provinces and in South Korea, almost 152,000 domestic poultry have died or been destroyed in 11 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu of the H5N8 subtype. China has confirmed seven new cases of H7N9 influenza in humans in the last week, while Viet Nam is stepping up its control programme.