GLOBAL - A modern technique successfully harnessed by researchers in Germany looks set to solve one of the welfare issues currently challenging the poultry sector, namely the need to cull male chicks of layer lines. Also in the news in the last week, a survey has revealed UK shoppers misconceptions about food safety risks and a statement from US egg farmers in support of their product, plus an update on bird flu.
Germany's agriculture minister has called for a practical method to determine the sex of chicken embryos in order to bring to an end the culling of male layer chicks by the end of next year.
On a recent visit to the University of Leipzig, Christian Schmidt saw for himself the latest research, which uses near infra-red spectroscopy to determine the sex of a chick embryo just three days after the egg is laid by detecting gender-related differences in the embryo's blood vessels.
The Minister called on the industry to support the development of suitable prototype devices, describing the killing of 45 million male chicks from layer lines annually in Germany as "intolerable". With the new technology, eggs containing male embryos can in future be directed towards various industrial uses before the chicks hatch out.
A consumer survey in the United Kingdom for the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) shows that more than 80 per cent of shoppers believe that it is possible for animal medicines and vaccinations to harm people by getting into food.
NOAH's chief executive said that these fears can be traced back to the 'horse meat scandal' two years ago and describes the results as "very worrying".
A new report on the poultry sector in India describes the supply chain there as poorly organised, ill-informed and wasteful.
However, the academics who published the report say that it could be upgraded with a more active supply chain. They added that the industry requires coordination and investment, with a strong emphasis on the internet.
In the United States, the media are spreading misinformation about egg production practices, according to a farmers' organisation. This has led some food companies to source their eggs from cage-free farmers, believing it is more humane or better from a food safety perspective, they say.
The National Association of Egg Farmers says that today’s modern conventional cages used in producing eggs are, in fact, humane and produce safe and wholesome eggs as well as a low-cost high-quality protein product.
Turning to news of bird flu over the last week, new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu have been reported in poultry in Burkina Faso, Taiwan and the US (in Minnesota turkeys), and of low-pathogenic bird flu in the Netherlands. Other birds have tested positive for the virus in Bulgaria, Romania, India and the United States (Wyoming, California, Montana and Missouri). There have been further human victims in Egypt and the Philippines.