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Two trends that may well shape the poultry industry in 2018 are the rise of animal welfare pledges and the adaptation of technological advancements in animal agriculture.
As part of the quarterly WATT/Rennier Poultry Confidence Index survey, WATT Global Media will be asking questions about the state of the industry and emerging trends, technologies and challenges. Here’s the results of four questions posed in surveys conducted at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 which focused on animal welfare issues and the challenges presented by emerging technologies.
McDonalds Corp., a massive influence in the global restaurant and food industry, broke away from the pack in October 2017 with an animal welfare policy that promises “improved welfare outcomes” by 2024 for the chicken it sources in 14 global markets, including the U.S. Conspicuously absent from the announcement was the use of a third-party welfare standard like the Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) or Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) program.
When asked: “Which of the following statements most closely reflects your opinion of McDonald’s announcement of its new broiler welfare policy?”
Animal welfare policies like GAP or RSPCA’s standards call often call for enriched environments for broiler birds. These objects are designed to give birds an outlet to perform natural behaviors like pecking and scratching, and mentally engage the animal. This is supposed to lead to better animal welfare and greater bird performance.
When asked: “Do you believe animal welfare-focused enrichments – hay bales, perching areas, pecking objects, etc. – result in better flock performance?”
Lab-grown meat, branded as “clean meat,” was one of the key technology trends of 2017. As opposed to plant-based alternative proteins and sophisticated meat look-a-likes, lab-grown meat is actual muscle tissue grown without an animal. In January 2018, Tyson Foods Inc. invested in Memphis Meats, a leading company in the space.
When asked: “Start-up companies like Memphis Meats are developing technology to create edible meat products without slaughtering an animal. Which statement most accurately reflects your thoughts on the future of the technology?”
Artificial intelligence is making great strides and will soon see advanced application in all fields, including animal agriculture. Potentially, AI technology – combined with enhanced machine vision and data analytics technology – could enable more efficient poultry processing and drones capable of performing tasks inside poultry houses.
When asked: “Drone technology and robotics are entering the global poultry industry. What role will they play in live production?”