British poultry farmers must not be left at a competitive disadvantage by lower standard imports, representatives of the U.K.’s National Farmers Union (NFU) told delegates at a meeting to discuss of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), held in the European Parliament.
NFU poultry board chairman Duncan Priestner said that U.K. consumers expected and demanded higher welfare, environmental and safety standards, which the country’s poultry farmers have already introduced at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.
However, trade negotiations with the U.S. – where minimum welfare standards are lower than those in force in the European Union – could put the industry at risk from cheaper imports.
“We are concerned that lower standard imports could leave us on an uneven playing field and undermine our consumers’ values,” Priestner said.
“We would like to send out a clear message to those involved in the negotiations that we do not regard U.S. poultry production systems to be equivalent of those in the U.K., and we believe that the gap between EU and U.S. production methods is too wide and it is unrealistic to reach a compromise.”
Among the NFU’s concerns are that in 2012, the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive came into force in the EU, banning battery cages. U.K. producers have invested around GBP400 million (US$616 million) in replacing these cages with enriched cages. In the U.S., 95 percent of eggs come from battery cages, and it is estimated that their cost of production is 25 percent lower than the U.K.’s.
Additionally, the NFU has raised concerns about certain treatments that can be used in the processing plant to wash poultry meat. In the EU, only potable water can be used, therefore there is a huge emphasis on farm hygiene.