Comment: Chlorinated chicken is a red herring

By Gary Ford, chief poultry advisor, NFU

As we fast approach the looming October 31 Brexit deadline, I was pleased to hear that poultry was a major theme at the NFU’s fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference this month. It is crucial that these issues are being raised on such an influential platform.

As Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers was getting asked plenty of questions about no-deal Brexit, the NFU’s President Minette Batters kept illustrating the impact it could have through the lens of the poultry sector.

I think this demonstrates how significantly British poultry farmers could be affected if we do have a no-deal Brexit. The Government’s trade policy is still an unanswered question and chlorinated chicken remains the example held up of what a UK-US trade deal could result in.

But Minette made the astute point that chlorination is actually a red herring in this debate. It’s what lies behind the chlorination that is the issue. The standards that British farmers adhere to are not the same standards other farmers produce food to. Minette rightly said that the US-style of poultry production was totally illegal in this country and farmers here would never produce to those standards.

It’s not just trade, it’s also the no-deal tariff schedule. At the time of writing, in the event of a no-deal Brexit there is no protection for our egg sector, with imports being charged zero tariffs. This means it could be open season for imports produced to lower standards, like in battery cages, than our farmers produce to causing untold problems for the sector.

The NFU’s national poultry board feels incredibly strongly about these issues and Minette heard from members of our board about how a no-deal Brexit could impact their business. It is excellent to see these issues in turn being raised with the Secretary of State and hopefully she will take our concerns on board.

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