Comment: I’ve been invited to my first non-virtual meeting; now where are my trousers?

By Charles Bourns, Gloucestershire broiler grower and company secretary of the National Fallen Stock Scheme

This month has been the month of webinars and Zoom calls thanks to the number of consultations that everyone has been faced with. I do hope that everyone has taken the time to answer them as most have huge consequences for our futures.

The proposed transport legislation seems like Defra has gold plated CIWF standards announced by the Eurogroup For Animals, copying it almost to the letter. I am 72 miles from the processing plant. It takes the lorries 1 hour and 40 minutes to get here and the same time back. It is virtually motorway all the way and it takes about one hour to catch a load, so before unloading they would already be 20 minutes over the four hours allowed. To my knowledge we have never had a problem and if we had the vets in the plant would be down on us like a tonne of bricks.

There has also been the Red Tractor Consultation which the NFU Poultry Board went through line by line. Whilst some of the new standards are legal requirements it was felt that the Red Tractor would be duplicating work already overseen by other Government departments and were really overstepping their areas of expertise and taking the auditors away from the purpose of the Red Tractor which is to make sure all farms are of a standard to produce good healthy and safe food produced to good welfare standards.

Talking of welfare, we have just depleted another crop of the Enhanced Welfare Chicken and whilst they went out ok our gas cost has been enormous. Out of a growing cost of 67p per bird, gas cost 21p. This I believe is 10p per bird more than it would have cost on a standard crop. I do not think it will do much for my CCL agreement next time around but luckily we have 74 tonnes in the bank.

The other consultation I have been involved with but from the sidelines was the one on ELMS and whilst it appears not to be very relevant to poultry except maybe organic or free-range it does affect us because of the desire for clean air. It is also the conduit for monies for the industry and payments for areas that are perceived to improve the birds’ environment. I refuse to say welfare as that is down to the stockperson who looks after the birds.

I also attended the NFU Virtual conference which was the usual Government Ministers saying how wonderful we all are, which of course we know. But there was one session that gave me hope for the future and that was when Tim Smith and Angus MacNeil MP were talking about trade and there was a very telling comment. There is no point in shutting an industry down, they said, because if you do it is almost impossible to restart it so we need to look after what we have and not let it be undermined by cheap imports produced to lower standards.

Lastly, although I am no longer chairman of the working party in Brussels I am still attending webinars in Brussels and I attended one on their new Green Deal where the Commission are pushing higher welfare solutions for farming and more organic farming, with 25% of all land farmed to be organic by 2050. So they are under a similar pressure to us. We did have a presentation about the BCC chicken in the Netherlands. It accounts for 30% of chicken grown.

Today I received my first invitation to a non-virtual meeting so at last the end of the lockdown is in sight, so I look forward to seeing some of you in person soon. I am now off to see if my trousers still fit!




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