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News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
Broilers & Layers / Egg Production
Wilkinson
Phillip Wilkinson believes poultry must be a safe, tasty, attractive product grown in a manner consistent with consumer expectations.
on February 3, 2014

Poultry production in 2050: What if we could increase production and meet consumer expectations?

The executive director of 2 Sisters Food Group gives his views on challenges facing poultry producers

The poultry industry has changed dramatically since 1976. In the past 38 years, egg production has increased from 230 to 330 eggs in 72 weeks with a decrease in feed conversion rate (FCR) from 3 to 2:1. Broiler production has decreased days it takes to get reach 2 kilogram live weight to 41 and FCR by 1.1 points. By 2050, the industry could be looking at 550 eggs in 100 weeks and 19 days to achieve 2 kilogram weight in broiler production, all with a 1:1 FCR.

However we must ask ourselves: As an industry, how can we increase production and meet consumer expectation? 

Quality assurance system

Each poultry corporation needs to have a quality assurance mark that people recognize, has core values, endures and stands out. Many consumers look out for that symbol or logo, but they also need to understand the values applied in order for them to make informed purchasing decisions. Communication of those values is therefore of paramount importance to organizations and corporations in order to create brand loyalty.

For example:

 

  • Energy, efficiency and the environment are the three focal points behind the McDonald's and Your M&S (Mark and Spencer's) brands in the United Kingdom.
  • Consumers associate Tesco's brand with improved health, trading responsibility and reducing impact on the environment.
  • In Australia, Coles is known for "helping Australia grow," responsible sourcing and sustainability, sustainable meat and fish production and a safe supply chain.
  • The U.S.-based Kroger's focuses on improving today to protect tomorrow and the Simply Truth Range, essential foods made healthier.
  • Woolworth's in South Africa represents efficient crop growth, fishing for the future and a good food journey through healthy and organic options.

Poultry operations should consider what attributes they want their brand to portray and how to effectively communicate those values with their current customers and prospective consumer market.

Communicate effectively

Food is a hot topic in social media. As a supplier of staple diet food, it is of paramount importance that the food we provide is safe, nutritious, tasty, and succulent and has the right value for the money. These qualities also must be communicated effectively to the end user.

For example, the recent horse meat contamination shocked many consumers and impacted shopper behavior. Many consumers changed stores, stopped buying all or some ready meals, stopped buying ground beef, and started purchasing fresh rather than frozen for a period of time after the alleged scandal.

Despite the scandal, support for British farmers remains strong among shoppers. Around 80 percent of shoppers believes Britain should be more self-sufficient in food and that British farmers deserve the full support of the public. The appetite for buying food from Britain has grown considerably. In February, almost 80 percent regarded whether their food comes from Britain as important, up from 55 percent six years ago.

Consumer demand for locally grown products was one of the reasons Red Tractor Assurance was established in 2000. The U.K.'s leading farm and quality food assurance scheme, Red Tractor Assurance is a nonprofit, limited company set up by the U.K. food industry that signifies farm to pack assurance. The legal framework was developed during the Food Safety Act of 1990 and includes components such as businesses must "exercise all due diligence" and companies must know about the standards followed by their suppliers. A single national system was developed, which helps to avoid multiple inspections and standards from every buyer and one certificate being accepted by every buyer.

It requires the participation and buy-in of senior players and organizations across the food chain and commitment to support the Red Tractor Assurance activities. The organization has credibility with government, food industry and relevant NGOs, and covers almost all species production, except eggs, which have their own quality mark. The assurance standard delivers market requirements and balances the demands of consumers, retailers and others for higher standards with the need to ensure sustainable production.

Red Tractor Assurance has helped restore confidence in production after high-profile food production problems such as BSE and foot-and-mouth disease.

Embrace new technology

Consumers are often asking themselves, "What should we eat?" Let's provide them the answer.  We should follow the example of Nestle, a company that continuously develops revolutionary new product ideas for nutrition, health and wellness through a vision driven by scientific research and state-of-the-art tools, such as Alltech's Nutrigenomics.

By 2050, we will need to consider that routine work may be replaced by robotics or automation. There will most likely be total supply chain transparency with precision farming, total traceability and on-farm informatics. In the U.K., I expect we will see land, labor and input costs continuing to spiral; however, I foresee we will be heading toward the end of cheap food. Farm employees with doctorate degrees, hydroponics and mini-power stations will become more common on poultry operations.

A global population of 10 billion with a ballooning, emerging middle class will create demand for Western food and diet. With a global obesity epidemic, consumers will be looking toward nutriceuticals and functional foods as pharma and agri-food sectors will converge. Dietary health foods may be prescribed as part of a disease prevention program. By 2050, grocery stores could be replaced with virtual online shopping. In addition to all of these innovations the industry must consider adopting, farming in the U.K. and other parts of the world most likely will be one of the most entrepreneurial sectors of the economy. It will have to, to meet consumer expectations.

In conclusion, poultry producers may struggle with continued industry volatility. The environment is generally favorable for poultry producers, but requires flexibility and market orientation. The key drivers will be delivering a tasty, safe, attractive product grown in a manner consistent with consumer expectations. We need to understand who our customers are, what their needs and wants are, and then exceed them. 

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