With the slogan "What if…," Dr. Pearse Lyons, CEO of Alltech, urged the audience, both in-person at the International Production & Processing Expo 2014 and the 1,600 virtual attendants, to challenge themselves to imagine where the poultry industry could be by 2020. "What if an egg could provide all the DHA we need a day? What if we could really have antibiotic-free production? Or, what if there could be no leg problems in chickens?"

The challenge continued with a presentation from Philip J. Wilkinson, executive director, 2 Sisters Food Group, based in the UK. To point out the importance of the poultry industry, he said that 49 percent of animal protein consumption in the UK comes from poultry. Wilkinson went on to ask the audience: Could we produce 550 eggs in 100 weeks with a 1:1 feed conversion rate, or 2 kg of chicken in 19 days with a 1:1 feed conversion rate?

Nutrition and nutrigenomics are a fundamental part of this. The industry in the UK - and globally - is focusing on lowering feed costs and feed risks such as mycotoxins, but also increasing performance, profitability, nutrient utilization and bird health.

DHA has been recognized as a very important omega-3 fatty acid, and Wilkinson asked: Can we replicate in chickens what we can in eggs with DHA? The good news is that research currently is being carried out to achieve this.

The industry must strive to keep foods safe and traceable and needs to continue working on this. At the present time, 2 Sisters can trace a chicken thigh all the way back to the parent stock in just two hours. But the industry needs to communicate these values. "Food is a hot topic," Wilkinson said. Consumers alter their mindset or change their shopping behaviors with scares such as the horse meat scandal in the UK.

Wilkinson also discussed what the future might bring for agriculture: Robotics, transparency in the food chain, the end of cheap food, precision farming, the high cost of land and the fact that each farm will become a mini energy station.