By Thomas Wornham, NFU Poultry Board chairman
Still waters run deep in the poultry industry. Our sector has benefited from another year of stability. Production and consumption of meat and eggs has complemented the needs of the consumer in terms of volume, while offering affordable products within a broad range of production systems.
Satisfying the consumers’ demand for large eggs has been raised with the retailers. Addressing the political concern of cage-free production is of great importance as it’s creating uncertainty. Some retailers are now offering customers mixed packs of eggs to redress the balance, but the fundamental issue of an oversupply of free range has taken a sector from being a niche into the mainstream.
In the broiler sector, in excess of 90% of poultry is reared in conventional house system, but there is market interference in the shape of the Better Chicken Campaign (BCC). The businesses that have worked hard specialising in organic and free range production have built brand recognition and a trusted supply chain to consumers prepared to compensate for such expertise.
In defence of standard broiler production, the NFU has commissioned two reports addressing the concerns of the BCC.
The turkey and specialist meat sector remain just that: specialist, with little consumer recognition. It seems a shame that these protein groups don’t benefit from greater sales throughout the year but I trust they benefit from being involved in the conversation regarding antibiotic reduction and renewed Red Tractor standards.
I believe our priority for 2020 is to create a standards discussion that benefits farmers: by trying to re-categorise egg sizes after Brexit, by educating politicians on welfare standards in the UK, or continually pushing the advances in antibiotic reduction. The forces of sentimental ideology verses agricultural pragmatism are becoming the battleground that could ultimately define our future.