Canadian Poultry Magazine

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FROM THE EDITOR: New Challenges, New Opportunities

New challenges, new opportunities


January 23, 2008
By Kristy Nudds


Topics

In late September a Saskatchewan poultry producer faced a situation feared by poultry producers worldwide: AI. But the Saskatchewan poultry industry was ready to handle such a situation and did an exemplary job. Those involved credit the national agencies and the government for working with them to plan for such an event to ensure minimal impact and that media messaging was clear and concise.

In late September a Saskatchewan poultry producer faced a situation feared by poultry producers worldwide: AI. But the Saskatchewan poultry industry was ready to handle such a situation and did an exemplary job. Those involved credit the national agencies and the government for working with them to plan for such an event to ensure minimal impact and that media messaging was clear and concise.

It’s a great example of how the industry works together in the face of a challenge. But it also served to identify once again that there are many lessons still to be learned.

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This month’s issue has a strong focus on how the poultry industry in Canada is preparing for new challenges in the years to come, and how it continually strives to learn from its past. Measuring how far we’ve come and how we utilize information is key to accomplishing, and measuring, significant and meaningful progress.

As we’ve seen in the past several years, consumer perception with regards to welfare and food safety will continue to be a key issue for the poultry industry. Several months ago the first National Farm Animal Care Council conference was held in Ottawa, where attendees discussed how consumer pressure is changing animal welfare and the challenges relating to how meaningful measurements of welfare can be determined (see "Animal Welfare Issues and Initiatives").

As identified by one of the conference presenters, Dr. John Webster from the University of Bristol, the genetics of the bird also play a significant role and that in Europe. For example, slower growing broilers are raised for those companies that demand increased welfare standards by requiring that broilers have greater leg strength.

To satisfy many of the welfare demands placed by consumers and retailers, the genetics of the birds used will likely play a key role in satisfying these demands.

How genetics has changed poultry production was the topic of a unique gathering held in Edmonton in late November (see "Celebrating Genetic Progress"). There, geneticists who worked to bring affordable chicken to consumers discussed how their early work led to the breeds that we know today.

Years ago, it was essential that birds grew faster on less feed to reduce costs for both the grower and consumer. However, as noted by several presenters, selecting primarily for growth and livability has had some serious metabolic and skeletal consequences, many of which have been identified as welfare concerns by interested groups.

Changes demanded by consumers and interested groups to improve welfare and reduce chemical use have led many industries around the world to shift production from higher intensity to alternative systems. However, shifting to such systems presents its own unique challenges that are yet to be quantified.

As Dr. J.P. Vaillancourt discussed at the Poultry Industry Council’s annual health conference (see "Paradigm Shift" ), these new production systems could potentially have an impact on the epidemiology of disease. More than ever before, producers need to be vigilant with biosecurity and communicate with neighbouring producers, especially in areas of high density.

As we start the new year, it’s important to remember that these “challenges” can also bring opportunity. Consumer and retailer demands are offering new markets. Researchers at the University of Alberta are using preserved strains from the 1950s and 1970s to do comparative work with modern strains, helping them to identify the trade-offs seen by selecting for accelerated growth. Not only with respect to welfare, but also with respect to food quality.


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