Report Synopsis

2050: The Challenges and Opportunities to the UK Broiler Industry

Patrick Hook

The UK poultry industry is one of the oldest in the world and continues to grow at an annual rate of 2- 3%. 2050 is the year being marked for a global population of 9 billion people and the UK will have to adapt and grow to meet this challenge. There is a current shortage of skilled people in the industry and there are very few initiatives to recruit and retain new entrants. Avian Influenza is the single biggest risk to the global industry and recent outbreaks have proved challenging to those affected. There are many misconceptions of the broiler industry, and welfare groups are on aggressive campaigns trying to put the industry’s reputation at risk. There is an element of complacency in the UK, where at the moment, thanks to genetics, there is an affordable, versatile and healthy protein source. However, the industry must be proactive in its approach in communicating to consumers the benefits of eating chicken and the high standards adhered to in the UK.

The main aim of the report is to understand how companies, industries and countries were planning for future challenges and opportunities facing them. Integrators, governing bodies, retailers and farmers were visited across New Zealand, Holland, Hungary, USA and Australia.

All countries visited had correlations to the UK market, and there were four consistent areas that featured in all discussions and meetings that aimed to shape future strategies to tackle and adapt to challenges and opportunities being faced. All countries were seeing the benefit of genetic improvements and adopting new and innovative farming systems to help improve performance, quality and welfare. Apart from universities in the USA, there were very few successful schemes in recruiting and retaining new entrants. Welfare groups were a huge influence across all countries in shaping the structure of the industry in some way. Avian influenza was a global problem; it had directly or indirectly affected all countries visited and new strategies were being adopted to prevent future outbreaks.

The UK poultry industry should collaborate with the wider agricultural industry to recruit and retain people. With the future projected growth in the industry, people will be the scarcest asset and investment in them is paramount to the success of the industry. Mechanisms should be built into the planning process to ensure new poultry sites are erected in areas of minimal risk, and guidance given to new entrants about biosecurity standards. The percentage of time a chick spends in a hatchery as part of its life cycle is growing, and early access to feed and water may become more critical for future potential improvements in performance, welfare and antibiotics reduction. The UK industry must not be complacent and should work with customers and consumers to educate them about the excellent standards to which British chickens are grown. Furthermore, the power of welfare groups must not be underestimated and the UK Industry must ensure proactive awareness of these people to prevent damaging backlash to the reputation of the industry. The UK industry has been successful over many generations due to its customer-focused structure and adaptable nature. If the industry continues to major on these two strengths, it will continue to succeed for many generations to come.

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