No Organic Chicken Production in Finland

FINLAND - Production of organic chicken is negligible. Companies say it would be too expensive and that there is an increased risk of disease.
calendar icon 21 September 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Organic chicken is virtually unavailable in Finland, reports YLE. The major meat producers say this is because of a higher risk of salmonella but the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) rejects this rationale.

The country's biggest poultry producers, Atria, HK Ruokatalot and Saarioinen, all say they do not want to get into the organic chicken business because of a higher risk of diseases. They argue that EU organic rules requiring that all animals have access to the outdoors puts them at greater risk of salmonella infection. Evira dismisses this, saying that organic chicken farms are no more susceptible to the bacteria than others. It notes that organic farms producing eggs have no greater incidence of salmonella.

Companies say they do not want to chance on compromising the high hygienic standards of modern poultry farming methods.

Jari Leija, CEO of HK Ruokatalot, said: "In practice, the birds are all taken into the hall to be raised and all brought out of the hall at the same time. Any extras or deviations from this procedures increase the risk of illness."

Head inspector, Sirpa Kiviruusu, of Evira disputes this, noting that "Organic broilers are subject to exactly the same salmonella monitoring programme as all other poultry or egg production. The consumer's risk of contracting salmonella infection is just as minimal on the organic side as in any other kind of production."

She notes that chickens may not go outside even if they have a chance to – especially if their three-month lifespan takes place during harsh winter weather.

The real reason may lie in costs. Organic chicken production may cost up to four times as much as conventional maximum-efficiency methods.

The Finnish Poultry Association says that some producers are carrying out organic chicken production this autumn on an experimental basis but that it remains to be seen if there is a viable market for the product.

Lea Lastikka, head of the association, told YLE: "In Denmark, organic chicken costs €20 a kilo. It is largely a question of whether consumers are willing to pay that much for meat."

YLE reports that many do, however, readily pay that much for beef steaks, while smoked reindeer sells for nearly three times that much.

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