Comment: how lobbying Europe on avian flu rules paid dividends for free-range producers

By Charles Bourns, poultry farmer & chairman of Copa Cogeca’s Eggs and Poultry Meat Advisory Group

This is my first article for the magazine and I have been given a fairly free rein, so I thought I would indulge myself and tell you a little about my work in Brussels. 

I am, for a few more months, the Chairman of Copa Cogeca’s Eggs and Poultry Meat Advisory Group, a group I have been involved with for the last 20 years taking over from Aled Griffiths who taught me well! Over that time we have battled with the Welfare of Laying Hens Regulation and the Poultry Meat one, worked on a protocol for Salmonella control, lobbied for the reintroduction of meat meal which seems at last to be within sight.  I know the retailers will resist this but I believe it will improve ammonia levels, podo and help in the battle to reduce antibiotics as the chicken will be healthier, but this is only my belief.

We also lobbied for – and achieved – a longer period that free range hens are shut in during an AI Housing Period, whilst retaining their free-range status, from 12 to 16 weeks and also on a flock by flock basis.  This meant that very few, if any farms, would be impacted by future Housing Orders.

Whilst we may be leaving the EU as I write this article, I am pleased to announce that the NFU will be staying on as members of Copa Cogeca so we will still have a great opportunity to gain first-hand what the EU will be doing and maybe still influence it, especially in the transition period.  It is always very important to know what your opposites are doing and will be doing especially as the European poultry industry is so intertwined with our own with common ownership.

So, what are the key issues at present? Trade, especially with Ukraine exporting breast portions with the wing attached tariff free, which causing big problems in our marketplace.  The company that is doing this is not small and is expanding fast having just bought a company in Estonia and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.  

Just before Christmas I attended a conference on the EU outlook for farming going forward.  Commissioner Hogan was very robust and taking no prisoners but hope going forward to help more young farmers into the industry, encourage a movement into digital farming and by helping smaller farms to adopt the technology, thus promoting a more competitive industry.

At home we have just calculated the savings in the use of gas and electricity in our refurbished broiler sheds – it is about 20% of both. We have also improved FCR and weight, but we now have a large sum to repay which was not there before.

Let’s hope 2019 is a prosperous year for all.

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