News and analysis for the global poultry industry.

Food Safety and Processing Perspective

Terrence O’Keefe, WATT’s content director, provides his perspective on everything from animal agriculture trends that impact our food chain to food-safety related issues affecting chicken and egg production. O’Keefe has covered the poultry industry as an editor for more than a decade and also brings his experience in plant management and poultry production to comment on today’s issues.
Slow growing poultry

Slow-growing broilers provide welfare goals for growers

Mortality and condemnation rates are at all-time lows for U.S. broiler producers, but so-called slow-growing chicken strains in Europe are doing even better.

Purposely selecting a breed of chickens because it grows slower seems like the least economically “sustainable” business model that I can imagine. But, with the interest Whole Foods has shown in slow-growing chickens here in the U.S. and the successful niche markets for these birds in France, the Netherlands and the U.K, I was really curious about what Claude Toudic with Hubbard France could tell us about these strains of chickens and the market for them in the Europe.

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US consumers still prefer cheaper cage-produced eggs

The big question is how much longer grocery shoppers will have a choice of the type of eggs they buy
With the tsunami of cage-free egg purchase pledge announcements this year, you might think U.S. egg producers would be struggling to meet the surging demand for cage-free eggs, but that isn’t the case.
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The Salmonella conundrum for egg producers continues

FDA director says the percentage of in-house environmental samples that are positive for SE has declined, but the rate of human illnesses attributed to eggs hasn’t improved.
Out of 1,355 FDA inspections of U.S. registered egg farms, only 10 farms received warning letters from the agency, John Sheehan, director, division of dairy, egg and meat safety, CFSAN, FDA, reported.
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Counting the absurdities in the Oxfam poultry report

Advocacy group’s 'research' of working conditions in poultry processing plants is fatally flawed with statements that are so easily refuted that they should be ashamed of themselves.
“In our interviews and review of industry research, there is not one report of a line worker getting paid time off, including personal time, vacation days, or sick days,” states the Oxfam report, Lives on the line.
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6th freedom is the real problem with cage-free hens

Animal welfare advocates espouse the five freedoms, but it is the sixth freedom that cage-free hens exercise that causes food safety concerns.
There are five freedoms that animal welfare advocates say need to be provided to animals; freedom from hunger and thirst; from discomfort; from pain, injury or disease; from fear and distress; and to express normal behaviors. When housing laying hens cage-free, it is the freedom to express normal behaviors that leads to the most problems.
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Rapid broiler growth is sustainable and not inhumane

Wall Street Journal article on the slow-growing broiler market strikes out when it comes to economics.
I generally enjoy the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of agriculture and the poultry industry, but I was unpleasantly surprised by some things written in a recent article on the expanding market for “slow-growing” broilers.
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Cage-free hens

Cage-free purchase pledges not the egg buyers' fault

It has never been the primary responsibility of retailers and restaurant chains to explain and defend animal husbandry practices
The Egg Industry Center Issues Forum in Chicago April 20-21, brought together egg producers, trade association representatives, some researchers and even a few activists and representatives from McDonald's, and, as expected, the hot topic was cage-free egg purchase pledges. It isn't an exaggeration to say that the HSUS representative at the forum was the only person who was smiling throughout the two days of presentations and discussions.
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Iowa lab finds no SE-positive eggs in 4 years of tests

No egg samples submitted in past four years by egg producers for testing by the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Iowa State were contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis.
The largest egg recalls in U.S. history just happened to coincide with the implementation of the FDA’s Egg Safety rule in summer 2010. While many egg producers were already operating under state or voluntary Salmonella prevention programs prior to 2010, the nationwide implementation of FDA’s rule seems to have had a positive impact on Salmonella enteritidis (SE) incidence in layer houses and in eggs.
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How long will the US conversion to cage-free eggs take?

Even the popular press has done a good job explaining why converting to cage-free egg production won’t happen overnight, but I still get questions from doubters.
In January 2016, Wired Magazine did a pretty good job of explaining why a conversion of the U.S. egg industry from just over 90 percent cage-housed hens to 100 percent cage-free hens couldn’t happen overnight. Similar articles appeared in several other magazines and newspapers, but I still get inquiries asking why most major cage-free purchase pledges use 2025 as the end date.
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Walmart eggs

Does Walmart decision signal end for laying hen cages?

The cage-free purchase pledge by the largest grocer in the U.S. has provisions for respecting consumer preference and transparency.
Any major purchasing decision made by Walmart and Sam's Club, which sell over one quarter of the groceries purchased in the U.S., has major implications throughout the supply chain for any commodity, and eggs are no exception. The cage-free purchase pledge made by Walmart on April 6, 2016 establishes a goal of 100 percent cage-free egg purchases by 2025.
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3 things to consider when choosing a cage-free system

US egg producers have a lot of cage-free housing system options available for them to consider, and their choice should really hinge on their answers to three questions.
On my recent visit to the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had the opportunity to visit with 12 suppliers of housing systems for laying hens. After hearing about the various types of systems being offered and how they operate, I think there are three questions that U.S. egg producers should ask themselves before they decide which system to choose:
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Brown hen eating corn

Organic poultry production: The real omnivore’s dilemma

Vegetarian diets and restriction/elimination of the use of synthetic methionine may keep organic poultry meat and eggs a small niche market in the U.S.
The question of how to meet an omnivore's nutritional needs feeding an all vegetarian diet is a question that I don’t think we should have to answer. What are we really gaining by trying to feed birds this way?
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