Poultry International - June 2017 - 17
become more commonplace. Abandoning the practice may require producers to offer birds greater
stimulation and alter feeding methods, and there are
ongoing studies into how helping producers manage
untrimmed birds. But rejection of trimming is unlikely to become universal.
According to Dr. Claire Weeks, senior research fellow in animal welfare at Bristol University's School of
Veterinary Sciences, certain markets demand it, but it
will remain niche in the short term.
And it may be the case that, as pressure on the practice increases, the need to beak trim diminishes. Changes
at the genetic level may be the answer, as genetics companies look to develop birds less able to inflict harm.
A British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA)
spokesperson explains: "Selective breeding has generated significant physical alterations, many of which
would be regarded as welfare positive and void the
need for mutilations."
No longer an interest group preserve
The drivers of welfare are changing. Large corporations are taking a growing role not only in response to
consumers, but picking up public sector responsibilities
in countries favoring smaller government.
Where one major company leads, others follow.
McDonald's 2015 announcement that all its eggs in the
U.S. and Canada would come from cage-free birds was
followed by others committing to do the same. This
ripple effect continues.
Ignacio Blanco-Traba, senior global sustainable sourcing with McDonald's Corp., has said that
McDonald's customers want to know more than ever
how animals are reared and, being global, McDonald's
applies its welfare policies worldwide.
Retailers will also put more demands on producers.
It is Europe's retailers - not legislators - that are
bringing an end to enriched cages.
Companies increasingly deem welfare a "key
business issue," says Compassion in World Farming
(CIWF). More are signing up to its Business
Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) -
established with World Animal Protection and Coller
June 2017 ❙ www.WATTAgNet.com
PoultryInternational ❙ 17
Enriched cages, seen as addressing certain welfare concerns,
were the choice of many European egg producers at the
start of the decade. Consumer and supermarket pressures,
however, mean that this option is already being rejected.
Capital - designed to drive higher welfare in food
business. The latest BBFAW includes 99 companies.
It will not only be the poultry industry's clients that
drive welfare, but its suppliers too. As the industry becomes increasingly standardized, genetics companies
will have little interest in supplying birds that perform
poorly in changed production system.
Science or no science
The role of large corporations may be a mixed
blessing. On one hand, they want suppliers to succeed, offering rules, sharing best practice and support.
Private assurance schemes can be highly effective,
but will only lead to genuine welfare improvements if
Ultimately, consumer-facing food businesses will
align with customers' perceptions. Despite good
intentions, these perceptions may be neither good
for bird welfare nor producers and, as the world
becomes more interconnected, views are quickly
shared across communities and geographies.
Dr. Weeks notes how social media has changed
sourcing in the U.S. and how this is spreading:
"Millennials are the ones on social media, and their
ideas spread very quickly. But the people driving the
agenda are ill-informed. The reality is wildly different to what consumers think."
Yet alongside the consumer welfare interpretation,