Danes Say Chicken Production Held Back by Regulations

DENMARK - At a meeting of the Danish poultry industry in Vejle last week, the decline of the local industry was blamed on long rearing periods and the country's rigid interpretation of EU rules, and there was a call for new policy initiatives.
calendar icon 9 February 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

By 2024, European demand for poultry meat is forecast to have increased by one million tonnes. But the Poultry Group of Denmark's Agriculture and Food agency, meeting in Vejle last week, heard that this growth has been taking place in Poland, the Netherlands and Gemany and not in Denmark. These trends worry the Group's president, Martin Hjort Jensen.

He said: "We have both the technical and production capacity to produce more chicken in Denmark. But the Danish rules are much tighter in a number of areas than our neighbours. In addition, many local authorities have been very slow to approve environmental applications from farmers. It has improved, but there is still a backlog."

In Denmark, the production of poultry for meat declined from 175,000 tons in 2008 to 168,000 tons in 2013. Over the same period, production increased in both the Netherlands and Germany, by 124,000 tons and 322,000 tons, respectively. Poland more than doubled production, and the latest figures from 2013 showed that the country produced 1.45 million tonnes of poultry for slaughter. The trend has since 2013 continued.

Mr Jensen said: "It is frustrating that we see growth happening in Germany, Poland and the Netherlands but not at home, despite our products being better on a number of parameters."

Tight Danish Rules

When a Danish chicken producer wants to expand his farm, he must meet a number of requirements, including on ammonia and nitrate leakage and odours. These requirements are defined in EU directives but they are interpreted very differently in other countries and in Denmark, the requirements are often tougher than in the rest of Europe.

Mr Jensen said: "It seems quite crazy that we, as leaders in climate-friendly meat production, are not allowed to exploit our potential. We prove every day that we can produce high-value products, while we take good care of the environment and climate. Therefore, I think it is logical that we, as pioneers, which should boost growth. Danish chickens have better welfare, are more productive and have a smaller carbon footprint than chickens produced in virtually all other EU countries."

He added that greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions per kilo of meat are significantly lower in Denmark than in either the Netherlands or Germany. In addition, water consumption in Danish production is the lowest in Europe.

Nitrogen Regulations Hold Back Production

Denmark chose to classify the whole country as 'nitrate-sensitive', thus using a far stricter interpretation of the EU Nitrates Directive than most other countries. In practice, this means there is a lower maximum number of animals on Danish land than in neighbouring countries.

Two years ago, according to Mr Jensen, a government commission reported that, among other things, the vast majority of land in Denmark could tolerate more nitrate than today's regulations allow.

He said: "I would strongly urge the government to to take heed of the commission's recommendations and encourage the expansion of the poultry industry.

"We can easily increase production without compromising the environment or climate. Danish rules on nitrogen are a brake that should be released as soon as possible."

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