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Conference Examines Sustainability of the European Poultry Industry

08 September 2014

UK – Well over one hundred delegates were present to celebrate the start of the 50th anniversary of the Poultry Science Symposium today, which is set to examine all aspects of the sustainability of the European poultry meat and egg industries. Jackie Linden reports.

Held in the fine English city of Chester, organiser Dr Vicky Sandilands of Scotland’s Rural College explained that this, the 31st in the Poultry Science Symposium series, marks its 50th anniversary.

Delegates represent a number of European countries and a range of professions including research scientists and industry experts.

In the first session with the theme ‘Creating a Resilient Industry’, Anne-Marie Neetson-van Niewenhoven of Aviagen Group UK presented a background to the industry in Europe, introduced the idea of sustainability and explored where a difference can be made.

Among her conclusions was that commitment is needed to restore the image of the poultry sector.

From World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA), Dr Mike Appleby offered a more global view of sustainability and said that consideration of the well-being of both humans and animals is required in order to achieve a sustainable future for the industry in terms of economics, ethics and the environment.

The next two speakers addressed the public’s perceptions of poultry systems and welfare and how they differ from the actual situation.

From Harper Adams University College, Dr Patricia Parrott presented the results of a consumer survey of chicken and egg production in the UK, carried out four times starting in 1997. She noted that the public tends to hold strong – but not always correct – views and that their perceptions of animal welfare are not the same as those of farmers.

Consumers appeared to be more concerned about the freshness and eating quality of the chicken than the production method, although the housing system was more importance in egg-buying choices.

Philip Clarke (editor of Poultry World magazine) reported on a survey of around 70 consumers, which highlighted a great range in the knowledge of the public about poultry farming methods.

To help bridge the gap between public perceptions reality, he urged poultry meat and egg companies to increase their transparency towards both the public and the media.

The second session of the day addressed was on the theme ‘Economics of Sustainable Production’.
Nan-Dirk Mulder of Rabobank International discussed price volatility and supply chains in a global context and addressed whether the European poultry industry is competitive.

He forecasts a continuation in the price volatility of feed ingredients in future as the demand grows from an increasing human population and a rising demand for meat.

He said that the situation requires new business models to be developed by the animal protein sectors. For example, global poultry trade streams will increasingly go from the Americas where there are natural resources for expansion to Asia, which accounts for much of the growth in demand but is relatively resource-poor.

The last session of the day was a two-hander by Richard Kempsey of Sutton Farms Ltd, representing egg company, Stonegate, and Steve Ellis, who is Managing Director of the UK Poultry Division of 2 Sisters Food Group.

They outlined the impacts of the sustainability agenda of their respective businesses, historically and looking to the future.

Sharing their views on the ongoing challenges in poultry health and welfare faced by producers in Europe, they explained how the industry Is engaged in the ethical, social and welfare debate on poultry husbandry systems.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

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