Producing more with a lower impact, is something that few industries can afford to ignore these days, and the poultry industry is no exception.
In the UK, the National Farmers Union is currently reviewing the poultry industry’s strengths, and possible weakness, to see how the sector can move forward and increase its corporate social responsibility. A whole host of activities are up for consideration and the outcome could provide a valuable reference for producers in other countries.
Amongst key areas is renewable energy and energy efficiency. While the NFU feels that producers in the UK can feel proud of their achievements, it notes that there may further opportunities for reducing the sector’s use of fossil fuels.
The NFU is lobbying the UK government for attractive Renewable Heat Incentives, RHIs, so that combined heat and power (CHP) plants can be built on farms. For broiler units a financial and environmental cost is energy consumption for brooding chicks and maintaining temperatures to ventilate birds. Therefore, interest in combined heat and power boilers, potentially running on poultry litter should be the way forward, it argues. Two avenues for NFU lobbying include favourable RHIs and taking poultry litter out of waste so that waste incineration directive controls do not apply.
When designing and building new farms, producers should look to new technologies to minimize their environmental, and maximize their financial efficiency, through the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Where renewable energy sources are not available, producers are advised to consider heating systems that could be converted to renewable energy at a later date. For instance, indirect heat sources, such as hot water radiators, or under floor heating using a conventional boiler, could be upgraded to a renewable energy or CHP boiler in the future.
Welfare remains a controversial issue. The NFU notes that the industry walks a very fine path, between efficient productivity and acceptable standards of bird welfare. Acting to define this path, voluntary assurance standards exist, in the form of the Lion and Red Tractor Chicken and Turkey.
So that the consumer can make their own choice about acceptable welfare, the industry also has enhanced standards such as RSPCA freedom foods for welfare and various organic certification standards.
Technical advisory groups on these assurance bodies ensures that standards keep pace with industry developments in the industry, and consumer demand. This process of continual development and improvement mean these standards maintain excellence in the industry.
To produce a Kg of food using less energy and water is better for the environment. It saves greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication and cost. Importantly, the NFU emphasizes that, despite the excellent performance of poultry meat and eggs, producers cannot afford to be complacent. Society demands the production of even more, while impacting on the environment even less.
Irrespective of the sector, we repeatedly hear calls for more food to be produced, and the poultry industry will have to respond to these calls, while impacting less. The NFU, with other trade organizations, is looking at various ways of achieving this and will develop its ideas as the year progresses. We will try to report in the pages of Poultry International how their ideas are progressing, but considering the two key points of producing more while impacting less, is probably something that should rarely be far from our thoughts.
Working with trade association partners in the poultry sector, the BEIC, BPC and BFREPA, the NFU will lobby for technologies and a legislative environment in which our members can embrace the challenges society presents them with.