By Olivia Cooper
Strong demand, competitive pricing and the wide-ranging implications of Brexit are likely to be common themes at this year’s British Pig & Poultry Fair, the biennial event for the UK pig, poultry and egg sectors, held on 15-16 May 2018 at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.
According to Defra statistics, UK poultry meat slaughterings increased by 4.63% between 2015 and 2016, to 1.08 billion head. Consumption of eggs has also continued to rise, up 2% in the year to August 2017 to 12.8 billion eggs.
However, retailer price pressure is a concern, with producers being challenged to increase production – and welfare standards – without receiving any price incentive to do so. “As producers, we need to major on getting the best performance possible, looking at everything we do on a day-to-day basis,” says Patrick Hook, director at PD Hook.
Technology could provide the answer to some of producers’ challenges – whether it’s automating climate controls or packing eggs more efficiently. And pulling together data – both on-farm and throughout supply chain – can really help to drive business efficiencies, says John McCurdy, head of agri data services at ABN. “It’s about the environmental, feed and performance indicators and how they tie together.”
According to Ian Lowery, a vet at Crowshall Veterinary Services, many people are already recording significant data for auditing purposes – they just need to make better use of it.
He recommends benchmarking between historical flocks on the same farm, using the best flock as a target. “You can plot trends in water consumption and liveweight gain, building temperature and mortality. There are practical ways in which data can be captured and used to improve key performance indicators.”
In the egg sector, the long-term outlook is very strong – but farm gate prices are not reflecting this. “Consumption is going up and as a nation we’re behind the rest of Europe,” says Richard Pearson, head of agriculture at Chippindale Foods.
So how can producers improve productivity without damaging profitability? “There is a big drive to keeping hens in lay for longer, and keeping the shell quality up in later lay,” he explains.
With the recent push from EU NGOs for more chickens to be slow grown, there could be new markets opening up in the meat sector. And in both meat and egg production, higher welfare standards are clearly the way forward. “We continue to challenge ourselves to improve welfare standards, looking at the latest science to give our customers confidence,” says John Kirkpatrick, agricultural manager for poultry and eggs at Tesco.
However, there is less certainty around the outcome of Brexit, with concerns around access to a skilled workforce, as well as potential trade barriers. “Imported US chicken is a credible threat,” says Hook. “We need to protect our supply base and sell the benefits of eating Red Tractor chicken.”
Fortunately, the egg industry is probably better protected than most other sectors, explains Pearson. “Shell eggs are protected by the Freedom Food and Lion codes. However, there are 5-6m hens’ worth of eggs used for processing in the UK each year and, following recent food scare issues like Fipronil last year, I would like to think conscientious food manufacturing companies will look to source more of their eggs from Lion approved units to safeguard the quality.”
From 2025, retailers want to only source eggs from cage free hens; so where does that leave farmers who aren’t sure where to invest? “Barn egg sales are very small in the UK so I think it’s likely to be more of a free range push,” says Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council.
However, obtaining planning permission is an ongoing problem, and changes to Environment Agency permit costs are also very unpopular. “This will always be a challenge on a small island, especially as we look to increase self-sufficiency. But at the end of the day people have to eat.”
Producers visiting the British Pig & Poultry Fair will be able to hear all of these speakers and more in the topical forum programme.
BPPF 2018 Forums – Advice and ideas to stay ahead
Forums are free to attend and take place in the main forum theatre at the same time on both days. To save time on the day and to plan your visit register now at www.pigandpoultry.org.uk
|10:00||Egg outlook – helping you plan ahead||Get the low down from industry experts on their predictions for the challenges and opportunities ahead for eggs.||Mark Williams, BEIC
Richard Pearson, Chippindale Foods
Chair: Duncan Priestner, NFU Poultry Board
|12:00||Poultry meat outlook – predictions for the year ahead||What should you be planning for? Two industry experts share their outlooks for poultry meat for the year ahead.||John Kirkpatrick, Tesco
Patrick Hook, PD Hook Hatcheries
Chair – Gary Ford, NFU Poultry Advisor
|13:00||Measuring your poultry business to improve performance||In this forum, we will talk about how to collect data that is most valuable to you and use it to your advantage. We will look at examples of good practice where improved performance, increased profitability and an enhanced operation have all come as a result of collecting and using the right data.||John McCurdy, ABN
Ian Lowery, Crowshall Veterinary Services