The growth and development of Asia’s poultry industry, especially the rapid growth in China, is creating new pressures on the entire food chain to commit themselves to food safety. This was the message presented by Alltech at its entrepreneurial dinner at VIV Asia in Bangkok, Thailand, March 12.
Two recent food safety crises – Yum! Brands China’s problem with chicken meat from producers and the discovery of horsemeat in British ground beef – dominated the evening’s panel discussion.
Philip Wilkinson, director of the British Poultry Council and executive director of 2 Sisters Food Group, said the British horsemeat scandal wasn’t a failure in the food supply chain, but “was caused by criminal elements who will be prosecuted.” He said maintaining a safe food supply requires trust and commitment from all members of the food chain. “You can’t have enough oversight to catch someone who is bent on a criminal activity,” Wilkinson said.
He believes the British scandal will tighten the food chain in Britain. “There is now a big emphasis on local sourcing, and it will move to chicken,” he said. He showed a full page newspaper advertisement from Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer, that explained how Tesco was sourcing its ground beef from British sources and in the near future all poultry would be sourced within the country as well.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said Wilkinson. “We will have shorter, tighter supply chains.”
Speaking on the Yum! Brands’ crisis in China, Dr. Mark Lyons, Alltech’s vice president of corporate affairs, said all food producers are going to face a food safety crisis at some point. “The first step for Yum! is to assure public safety,” said Lyons. “The second step is at the farm level. In China, KFC currently has over 5,000 farms supplying chicken, which is too many to control.” He said this presents an opportunity for suppliers, such as Alltech, to help educate the Asian market on natural production programs that will allow them to produce chicken at similar or at the same cost as producing with antibiotics.
The panel, which also included Jon Ratcliff, a food safety consultant, agreed that food safety is going to be a bigger and bigger issue in the future. In developed countries such as Europe, the trend toward free-range and natural products is driven both by consumer demand and market pressures. “Retailers can get more money per inch of shelf space selling natural or free-range eggs over conventional eggs,” said Ratcliff. “It is in their interest to continue this trend.”
Education of both the farmers and consumers is a big part of the solution, according to Lyons. “We have to concentrate both on crisis management and education programs for producers and consumers,” said Lyons.
Every company in the food chain has to be concerned about food safety. The feed industry in particular needs to incorporate crisis management, according to Lyons, pointing out that feed is an important risk factor in the food industry.
VIV Asia 2013 is Asia’s largest show for animal agriculture and is being held in Bangkok, Thailand, March 13-15.