Why a solid poultry supply chain strategy is essential

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of robust supply lines for poultry producers. The importance of protecting supply lines will not diminish as the pandemic subsides.

Analyzing, improving and keeping the chicken supply chain open is critical in the goal of feeding the world. | (Courtesy Aviagen)
Analyzing, improving and keeping the chicken supply chain open is critical in the goal of feeding the world. | (Courtesy Aviagen)

For the past year, the global poultry industry has been facing what Rabobank referred to as a “perfect storm” of challenging conditions.

Among these have been supply disruptions and worldwide oversupply with resulting economic consequences, due, not only to COVID-19, but also to widespread avian influenza outbreaks.

While we’ve weathered, perhaps, one of the most difficult times in modern history, the industry has demonstrated the perseverance to overcome many hurdles. This perseverance, I am sure, will continue, and integral to success will be well-defined, disciplined and adaptable supply chain strategies.

Strategy 1: Biosecurity 

First, bird health should be protected by a rigorous and carefully monitored biosecurity program. The goal is to prevent the introduction and spread of pathogens, and the program should meet or exceed all official regulations. Good biosecurity is a key element for domestic as well as international trade, as it helps promote healthy flocks and food chain safety and security.

Strategy 2: Diversified supply and production bases

At a time of an unprecedented global health crisis, it is essential to keep supply chains flowing in order to feed the world. Unfortunately, the current pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the supply and production strategies of many industries. Trade restrictions, border closures and product shortages, due in part to the absence of workers, has highlighted these weaknesses. Moving forward, companies will be under increased pressure to make their supply chains more resilient, without lessening their competitiveness.

This advice also applies to the poultry breeding industry, and an effective strategy to spread the risk is two-pronged. The first is to have supply bases spread throughout the world for all bird generations. That way, if there are issues in one part of the world, orders can be shipped from another location.  

The second is to ramp up domestic production by placing localized production bases to serve local customers in countries on multiple continents. Again, underpinning successful local production is an outstanding biosecurity program.

Strategy 3: Compartmentalization

Compartmentalization is one way to secure international poultry commerce, and it has proven to be quite effective in recent years. Compartmentalization gives confidence to an importing country that the birds it receives are disease free while, at the same time, ensuring continuity of supply and, ultimately, food security for local economies.

Strategy 4: Proactive export team

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an experienced and proactive global export team to guide the shipment and delivery of birds. They will work closely with everyone involved in the transportation process, monitoring the status and environment of the chicks en route to make sure conditions are right for their unique needs.

When challenges occur, the export team will find alternative trade routes and do whatever necessary to make sure the world’s producers receive safe, healthy chicks on time.

Reaching our goal – feeding the world

It’s clear that the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic has uncovered many weak links in supply chains. Businesses should view these as a wake-up call, an opportunity to take a discerning look at their supply networks, identify the weaknesses, and make improvements.

While we are still seeing many challenges, there is a bright side. The market for chicken has remained strong due to the meat’s affordability and versatility for home preparation. Experts say that stronger control of COVID-19’s spread should lead to a recovery in food service markets. These opportunities add to the urgency to keep the supply chain open, and a must is not one, but multiple proven strategies to enhance resilience.

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