Thailand sets standards for hen welfare

In a development supported by the country’s largest agri-food group, Thailand’s veterinary authority is working on a set of animal welfare standards for hens kept in cage-free housing systems.

Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) has agreed to share its knowledge of cage-free egg production while Thailand’s Department of Livestock Development adopts new standards on cage-free farming practices. (Charoen Pokphand Foods)
Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) has agreed to share its knowledge of cage-free egg production while Thailand’s Department of Livestock Development adopts new standards on cage-free farming practices. (Charoen Pokphand Foods)

In a development supported by the country’s largest agrifood group, Thailand’s veterinary authority is working on a set of animal welfare standards for hens kept in cage-free housing systems.

The primary aim of the new standards is to ensure humane husbandry for laying hens, according to the Department of Livestock Development.

One expected consequence is the improved health and well-being of the birds, leading to reduced use of antibiotics to treat diseases. Furthermore, it is hoped that the standards will boost food safety in Thailand, and consequently open up new export markets for the country’s egg producers.

A government agency operating under the Ministry of Agriculture, the department expects the new guidelines to be published in the current fiscal year.

According to the agency’s Director General Sorawit Thaneto, the standards will be based on the “Five Freedoms.” In accordance with Good Agricultural Practice, the proposals aim to ensure the birds are free from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury, and disease.

Widespread interest from Thai egg industry

As well as the prospect of expanding exports, Thailand’s egg companies see potential in the new standards to increase domestic sales.

In recent months, The Nation reported that large businesses in the country such as Tesco Lotus and McDonald’s have announced that they will only buy eggs from cage-free farms.

As well as retailers, the hospitality sector has shown interest in obtaining cage-free eggs, according to Sorawit. As a result, applications for certification have been received from egg companies of all sizes in Thailand.

Already expressing its support for cage-free egg production is Charoen Pokphand Foods PLC (CPF).

As well as greater international trade, CPF sees potential in the new standards for domestic marketing opportunities to premium restaurants, hotels, and franchises.

CPF’s explores cage-free egg production

Farming is an integral part of Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), according to head of the group’s egg business. Somkid Wannalukkhee said that animal welfare is central to the delivery of safe food to consumers, as well as meeting increasing global demand for high animal welfare products.

In anticipation of this demand, CPF set up a pilot farm in 2018. It is based on European standards for cage-free egg production.

At the Wang Somboon farm in central Thailand, the hens are kept in a closed environment-controlled house. Feeding, lighting and egg collection are automatically controlled. CPF’s F100 line has been specially selected for the production system, and the birds are fed a grain-based diet.

As a result of the provision of perches, environmental enrichment and litter materials, the birds are free to express their natural behaviors.

Biosecurity and food safety have received particular attention at the farm. From nest box to stock room, sanitary and biosafety controls are in place. Disease-carrying rodents, reptiles, and insects are kept away from the premises.

According to CPF, cage-free eggs are fresher than those from other farms. With the yolks a fresh orange color, they are nutritious for consumer health.

CPF is offering its Wang Somboon facility as a training center for other farmers in Thailand interested in switching to cage-free egg production systems.

More on CPF

With annual slaughterings of 685 million birds, CPF is in 6th position in the WATT AgNet World’s Top Poultry Companies database. The firm also has 22 million laying hens.

Earlier this year, CPF announced it was introducing new welfare standards. Set to apply throughout the group’s livestock and aquaculture value chains, the standards aimed to assure the safety of its foods.

In the company’s financial report for the latest half-year, CPF recorded a 45% jump in net profits year-on-year, and a growing contribution from its overseas businesses.

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