ANALYSIS - Poultry farmers across Australia are having to change their production systems as more supermarkets are demanding RSPCA welfare guidelines for rearing birds.
The changes demanded by the supermarkets are likely to add up to 20 cents onto the price of a chicken as production costs increase.
The move has been sparked following actions by supermarkets such as Coles to demand the welfare friendly and ethical production measures.
Coles demanded that all the chickens they sold be reared to RSPCA standards in January this year.
At the time Coles Chief Operating Officer, John Durkan, said the move to RSPCA Approved chicken was the latest in a series of quality improvements the supermarket chain was making.
“Coles has listened carefully to what customers are telling us about animal welfare and the quality of the food they feed their families. We’ve taken this feedback to our farmers and growers and worked with them to deliver a better product,” he said.
The RSPCA standards require all birds reared indoors to have additional welfare measures in the barns. The also require access to outdoor areas for free range systems as soon as the birds are reasonably feathered and they stipulate stocking densities and the need for enrichment and perches and minimum periods for light and dark for the birds.
The global avian influenza situation has seen Hong Kong close its doors to chicken imports from California this week because of an outbreak of an outbreak of low-pathogenic H5 avian influenza on a quail farm.
In Japan, the strain of the virus that caused bird flu at a poultry farm in Kumamoto Prefecture has been found to be genetically identical to the one found in South Korea, the National Institute of Animal Health.
Genome sequencing proved the virus strain detected on 13 April on the farm in Taragi, Kumamoto Prefecture, was virtually identical to the virus that led to widespread infections in South Korea this year.
The farm ministry believes the virus came from South Korea.
In North Korea, the veterinary authorities have reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu in Hwanghae-Bukto.
According to the report received by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) the affected population comprises chickens and geese.