Every January, during the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, there is always a topic that everyone talks about, that is, "the topic" of the show. Sometimes it is avian influenza, sometimes mycotoxins, but I think this time it was antibiotic-free (ABF) poultry production.
There were several presentations and symposia during IPPE about it. No wonder – there are many companies such as Pilgrim's Pride in the United States, which have announced that at least part of their production will be antibiotic-free. Moreover, there are also companies that use chicken that have tightened their rules, like McDonald's in Canada.
Is it a marketing strategy? Personally I think so, but I was struck by a statement from Dr. Stephen Collett of the University of Georgia during the Alltech breakfast about ABF “we have lost consumer confidence” and that the perception of what we produce is a reality. Whether we like it or not, the consumer is watching us. It is clear to me that the loss of confidence is not always our fault. There has been a lot of mishandling of bad publicity and malicious people who want to harm the poultry industry.
Antibiotic-free production is a reality, and so is cage-free production. According to experts, these systems are feasible and sustainable, although I do not know whether they are at all desirable or the best option. However, they seem worthy – to some extent – of a perfect world.
For me the problem is to pass situations of the first world to the third world, where conditions are different, where people spend a higher percentage of their income in food. In the case of Mexico, one of the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 38.3 percent of people simply “do not have enough money to buy food.” It is the worst rate in the OECD. Chile, another Latin American, has a 27.8 percent, an index similarly low. Mexico also has the lowest average household income of the organization – US$6,400 in 2012 – a figure that surely came down with the devaluation in recent years. In contrast, Chile has averaged more than double — US$13,200. And just for comparison, to leave no doubts, the average household income in Luxembourg – which is the highest – is US$40,900.
If Luxembourgers, Swiss and Americans want to eat more expensive poultry products, go ahead! But I appeal to national and international authorities, media, pro-defense of animals groups and poultry producers: give this a thought before transferring to production methods that do not correspond with reality. Of course, it is also clear that public health is a separate issue.