Raising Standards for UK Poultry

UK - Nigel Joice, vice-chairman of the National Farmers' Union's poultry board, explains why an industry-wide training initiative, backed by Britain's poultry farmers, has attracted so much interest.
calendar icon 13 February 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

A drive for even higher standards of welfare and training aims to reinforce the image of quality British chicken, said leading Norfolk poultry producer, Nigel Joice, reports Business EDP.

An industry-wide training initiative, backed by Britain's poultry farmers, has attracted interest from more than 2,000 staff, said Mr Joice, vice-chairman of the National Farmers' Union's poultry board.

Mid-Norfolk-based training specialist Poultec, which is based at Mattishall, has played a key role in delivering the practical initiative.

Mr Joice, who rears about five million table birds a year at South Raynham, near Fakenham, said, "It is absolutely fantastic. It hasn't been launched very long and we've had a big sign-up.

"The timing has been perfect because both Brussels and Defra want training of stockmen to be absoutely paramount when it comes to welfare. I would wholeheartedly back that approach because you need competent stockmen to get good welfare," said Mr Joice.

Britain's poultry industry is adopting higher welfare standards for rearing chickens from 1 April, which will be enforced 14 months ahead of the rest of Europe.

An independent body, Assured Chicken Production, sets and enforces quality standards for poultry, which is sold under the Red Tractor food assurance logo.

ACP's chairman, David Joll, who is a former chief executive of Bernard Matthews, based at Great Witchingham, told Business EDP, "Food safety and animal welfare are at the top of our agenda."

"We are committed to operating to the highest standards across a wide number of breeds of chicken to ensure that quality chicken is widely available to consumers."

"We are setting the bar high by introducing new standards that are independently assessed and independently inspected by Red Tractor Assured Food Standards certification bodies," said Mr Joll.

Robert Newbery, who is the NFU's chief poultry adviser, said, "The industry is leading the way through voluntary initiatives already. Domestically produced chicken is better and we do have strict standards in place."

From April, producers must meet tougher rules on buildings' tempera-ture, humidity and emissions, and also enhance the environment for chickens, which are typically ready for the table in about six to seven weeks, depending on weight.

The industry is also backing a new 'training passport' scheme to train staff to NVQ qualifications.

In the past year, demand from shoppers and retailers has seen the use of the Red Tractor logo grow by 60 per cent and appear on over £8 billion worth of UK-produced food and drink, concludes the Business EDP report.

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