UFU: Consumers to Dictate Broiler Welfare Conditions

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says poultry welfare conditions on farms in Northern Ireland will be determined by consumer and supermarket demand. The UFU comments follow the RSPCA's calls for the UK to maintain higher poultry welfare standards than the rest of the EU.
calendar icon 27 August 2009
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UFU Deputy President, Harry Sinclair said: "Animal welfare is a very important issue for farmers. In the poultry industry in Northern Ireland we operate voluntary standards in broiler houses which are much better than the minimum space per bird allowances required by law. Our farmers are dedicated to providing quality fresh local produce. However relentless consumer / supermarket demand for value for money means the industry is always under pressure to maximise output and efficiency. If consumers want even higher standards of animal welfare on poultry farms the industry will be able to respond, but inevitably costs will rise and that will have to be passed on to the consumer. Farmers will respond to market signals but we have to ask the public to think carefully about this issue; the demand for cheap produce is not compatible with the demand for higher welfare standards."

The UFU said it was also important that UK and EU legislation does not disadvantage local producers.

Mr Sinclair said: "Our poultry producers are providing an important service to a very competitive market. We have a very professional poultry industry which will comply with UK and EU legislation. However it will be very important that the EU does not disadvantage our farmers by allowing produce to enter our markets from other parts of the world where animal welfare legislation is not as stringent. The issue is another example highlighting the need for accurate country of origin labelling."

The UFU has highlighted the economic importance of the poultry industry to the local economy. The UFU says the poultry industry is generating over £400 million in revenue each year, employing 4,500 employees. Farmers in Northern Ireland supply poultry across the whole spectrum from standard production, to free range, to organic chicken.

Mr Sinclair added: "All our new poultry houses are designed to allow natural light or free range access for the birds and all our stockmen are being trained to NVQ level 3. The local poultry industry has a very positive story to tell."

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