By Charles Bourns, broiler grower, Gloucestershire
Contrary to what some may have thought, I have not gone to the great nest box in the sky, but I have had a heart operation, which seems to have gone well. I cannot drive yet, which is a bit frustrating, but what it has done has given me time to think… which is probably more dangerous.
It seems to me that we are increasingly coming under pressure from a new industry that should be supporting us: the auditing assurance companies. Whilst I believe we do need to move forward with our standards, these companies seem to be making very little effort to take us the farmers along with them. Given we are the ones that foot the bill, you would have thought this would be a given.
Last month we had this with the Red Tractor environmental module and now the RSPCA’s new standards for egg units. In both instances the push back from the industry is enormous and hopefully will bear fruit. The push back has come because there seems very little justification for the extra expense. I am sure the customer will not want to pay 20% extra for their eggs and I know we will not have a price increase for our chicken. If anything, the price pressure is the other way.
If the assurance schemes want to change their standards, maybe they should learn from the European Commission, which introduced its welfare standards for laying hens with very little prior consultation. There was then a battle royale with the industry to get them introduced. Later on, when they wanted to introduce the new broiler welfare standards they sat down with the industry and wrote them together and as a result these were introduced with a great deal less fuss.
It is not that the industry will not adopt new standards. It is just they need to be justified to both the farmer and the consumer who have to pay for them.
Another thing that has worried me this week was a picture I was sent of Ukrainian chicken being sold in Spar. The chicken was imported and packed in the UK. The product was labelled as not suitable for freezing, so I presume it was made from frozen imports. I just hope this is not going to become a new trend.
On a positive note, the sales of the Oakham Gold are increasing. I will finish by wishing you a great festive season and prosperous 2024.