Comment: Send chlorinated chicken to China, not the UK

By Charles Bourns, broiler grower and chair of poultry & eggs working group, Copa Cogeca

This month I was pleased to see that the Chinese and Americans have come to a trade agreement. The Chinese have agreed to double the amount of agricultural products they are going to buy and have relaxed the rules on poultry, pork and beef products. 

Why is this important to me? China is very short of protein due to African Swine Fever. Now they can now buy from America, so hopefully the dreaded chlorinated chicken will go there.

The EU has decided to stop imports of poultry from Ukraine due to avian influenza. We are always very apprehensive when AI is anywhere in Europe because we are under the flight path for Slimbridge, so we have doubled up our biosecurity, especially as we have a group of geese who use us as a landmark on their way to and from their daytime feeding area.

At the NFU Poultry Board meeting this month, we discussed a new customer survey by Lidl. It showed environmental concerns have moved above animal welfare in consumers top reasons to buy products. This is good news for poultry as we lead the way in this field.

The NFU has its Net Zero 2040 initiative which the poultry industry can help achieve. We recently refurbished our sheds and have shown a saving of 48% above our climate change levy (CCL) target. This means we now have 60 tonnes of carbon in stock if we need it to meet our next target.

Separately, I went to a meeting where Phillipa Wiltshire from Red Tractor was speaking. It was great to see how much time they are putting into promotion on a very limited budget; it is such a pity that AHDB are unwilling to back the campaign and I just hope they will change their minds in the future.

The new Red Tractor regime requiring 3% windows in all poultry houses was discussed, which I know is not popular. But it’s clear despite this, the poultry industry is leading the way in with a failure rate in audits of only 2.5% against pigs at four times this and dairy at 10 times. I can remember when the Red Tractor did not want us poultry producers in case we lowered the standards!

Just one point to remember with the new window standards: it is the glass area that is measured by the auditor not the glass plus the frame. I went on a farm the other day that has been caught this way.

At home, we have had our change to BCC Chicken delayed for another crop. For the time being we will carry on with standard birds, although this crop we had a mixture in one shed of a few boxes of the Hubbard chicks which has been interesting. There is a clear difference in growth and activity and I had to stop trying to catch them as my exertions were upsetting the others. I just hope they will not be rejected in the factory as being too small (1kg at 28 days as opposed to 1.5kg for the rest).

The reason for the delay is that the demand for BCC poultry is not taking off quite as fast as first thought. What I do hope is that the politicians stay out of it and let the market decide. When politicians become involved it normally ends in a mess. I will just say the same as I always do: welfare is not about the system, it’s about stockmanship.

 

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