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VIV EUROPE: How Poultry Can Feed the World Sustainably

26 May 2014

VIV

THE NETHERLANDS - An important conference held during the VIV Europe 2014 expo addressed the question generally regarded as the greatest challenge facing everyone in the poultry business in the 21st century - that is, how to provide food in an ethical, sustainable and responsible way to a world population that is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050.

The conference is named the Romijn Lecture is honour of a famous Dutch poultry researcher of the 20th century.

Dr Goossen van den Bosch, a poultry health specialist who is on the board of the Dutch WPSA and led the organisation of the conference, explained: “We decided that our theme should be how to feed the world without eating the planet.

“The whole idea behind establishing Romijn Lectures to be held every two years was that it should be a forum for policy-makers to meet with poultry people and discuss the interactions between intensive farming and society. Producing poultry intensively is often perceived as having negative effects, which we need to recognise and address,” he said.

Food Chain in Action

Dutch documentary photographer, Henk Wildschut, used to share many of the negative public perceptions of poultry production until he received a one-year commission from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to create a display of images of the food chain in action.

His visits to farms, hatcheries and processing plants during that year changed his view completely as he came to appreciate the professionalism of the sector.

A Better Life for Animals

Public opinion about what is acceptable in terms of animal welfare has itself changed over the years, the conference’s second speaker noted. He is renowned poultry scientist, Professor Eddy Decuypere, formerly of Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven and coordinator of its Centre for Science, Technology and Ethics.

This process of change will continue because animal welfare has no end-point, Dr Decuypere explained – practices considered good enough today will not be accepted in the years ahead.

As people feel their own lifestyles improving, they want to see a better life also for their animals. This brings a constant need for the poultry sector to keep re-examining its production methods.

Environmental Impacts of Poultry Farming

Other negative attitudes about intensive poultry production invariably extend to its environmental impact, of course. Henk Westhoek of Netherlands environmental assessment agency, PBL, reflected on the environmental impacts of poultry farming as well on opportunities to reduce these impacts.

Dr Decuypere returned to the stage to discuss his ideas on how to intensify animal production in a responsible way.

Later, the conference was opened to questions from the attendees in a discussion session led by Dr Arjan Stegeman of the University of Utrecht.

The Romijn Lecture commemorates Dr Christiaan Romijn, who was famed internationally as professor of veterinary physiology at the University of Utrecht and a pioneer of research into hatching systems. He presided over the first-ever European Congress of the World’s Poultry Science Association (WPSA) and was elected to the association’s International Poultry Hall of Fame for his contribution to the development of the poultry industry around the world.

Commenting on the event, VIV Europe exhibition manager Ruwan Berculo said: “Due to its highly topical issues, this Romijn Lecture conference fits perfectly in the VIV Europe 2014 programme.

“VIV is all about business and the questions being debated at the conference have vital implications for the poultry business globally. We are proud that the Dutch branch of the WPSA has chosen VIV Europe as the platform for staging its event.”

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