What can poultry breeders do about food safety?

The solution lies with biosecurity
calendar icon 28 September 2022
clock icon 4 minute read

We’ve all talked about food safety, but what does it actually mean? According to the USDA, food safety refers to the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses.

In particular, from a consumer perspective, food handling is one, if not the most important, aspect of preventing contamination or infection. It is safe to eat, properly handled and cooked poultry. Consumers are reminded to handle raw poultry hygienically and cook all poultry thoroughly before eating. The National Chicken Council offers important food safety tips for poultry on their website at National Chicken Council | Important Food Safety Tips for Poultry.

But what can we, as poultry breeders, do to help ensure food safety? The solution lies with biosecurity. Biosecurity is managing biological risks associated with food and agriculture. In the context of animal agriculture, it is a series of management steps and practices implemented to prevent the introduction of infectious agents into a flock.

Why is biosecurity important?

Biosecurity is important for a number of reasons. First, it is critical to have efficient control measures early in the production chain, and it is an important aspect of on-farm food safety programs. Keeping breeding flocks healthy to help ensure supply chain protein products are wholesome and are of the highest quality is important for the health and well-being of consumers. An effective biosecurity program will keep animals healthy and maximize productivity.

Aviagen produces breeding stock for the poultry industry in the United States and many countries around the world. A major component of our commitment to providing quality stock that meets our customers’ expectations is to ensure that every breeder we produce is free from all Salmonellae, avian influenza, Newcastle disease, and all Mycoplasmas.

It all starts with healthy birds

Aviagen takes a holistic approach to poultry breeding, balancing bird performance and efficiency with strong health and welfare. In fact, more than a third of our selection criteria focuses directly on health- and welfare-related characteristics: from gut health to livability and leg strength. Part of the selection criteria for health is a good immune response.

Bird health is further enhanced by skillful husbandry. Flocks are given fresh, clean water and well-balanced, nutritious feed along with the best veterinary care. And, their farm environment is carefully managed, following the highest standards of hygiene, ventilation and temperature control.

Next, biosecurity excellence is a must!

Biosecurity is a set of rules and practices designed to prevent disease by eliminating or reducing exposure to infectious agents. Disease agents gain entrance to a flock from many different sources, including people, feed, equipment, wild birds, rodents and insects. Thus, it is not difficult to understand why strict measures are required to prevent exposure to infectious agents. Biosecurity is an ongoing process. Continuous improvement is ensured through continuous revision and consultations. Careful planning and attention to detail, coupled with regular monitoring, are integral to a successful biosecurity program.

Aviagen’s biosecurity is unmatched. All employees are trained on biosecurity at the beginning of employment, and their knowledge of biosecurity excellence continues through additional annual sessions. Our company conducts training sessions for all critical groups, including production teams, hatchery staff, vaccination and health monitoring. This thorough level of instruction ensures everyone has a clear understanding of our guidelines to prevent the introduction of poultry disease agents into our operations. Aviagen contract growers also have opportunities to deepen their knowledge each year through videos, newsletters and in-person meetings.

Each facility goes through a strategic site selection process to ensure birds are located away from commercial poultry areas. Next, facilities are constructed and maintained to prevent the entry of pests. A vigorous protocol for entry includes a strict visitor approval process designed to mitigate risk at each facility.

Aviagen has a comprehensive poultry house monitoring program that includes bacterial, environmental and water testing which are routinely conducted at each location. Captured in a database for effective risk management and traceability, this information is imperative for us to validate our robust cleaning and disinfection protocols at facilities at all levels.

Other measures to support these efforts may include fumigation/disinfection of incoming supplies, high-efficiency air filtration and water treatment systems. We continue to look for new technology to improve these areas, such as cleaning and verification sampling.

Additionally, trained specialists conduct audits on our facilities to ensure policies are followed and opportunities for improvement are identified and addressed. These audits are done for all generations of breeding stock. Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility and is our strongest defense against the introduction and spread of infectious agents in our facilities.

Food safety requires a comprehensive approach to meat and poultry. It begins at the breeder farm level with how the birds are selected and raised, to integrators’ biosecurity efforts and controls around processing, and goes all the way to the consumer in how the products are handled, stored and prepared. (Farm to Fork)

At Aviagen, we understand that food safety begins with us, the primary breeder, and we take this responsibility seriously. All these efforts help ensure we are doing our part to provide healthy breeding stock to our customers, so they can produce broilers to feed their communities with safe, nutritious chicken meat.

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