Meat - Turkeys
July 21, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - Portuguese barbecued chicken restaurants in Toronto are struggling with a supply shortage of the younger, smaller chickens they cook on charcoal barbecues or rotisserie spits.

“Where is all the chicken?” asks Guiherme Salera of the Portuguese Chicken Guys, a downtown restaurant. “We are calling all our suppliers, scrambling.”

The eateries, called churrasqueiras (a Portuguese word that translates to barbecue restaurant), have over the decades become a popular dining option in Toronto; dozens of the family-owned shops thrive across the city and the suburbs. But several restaurateurs say that for the past few months they have been unable to find the 1.1-kilogram chickens that taste the best.

At its heart, their beef seems to result from a clash between taste and efficiency.

Canadian farmers prefer to raise heavier chickens, because they get paid by weight. Abattoirs have set up their shackle lines — where workers slaughter, defeather, eviscerate and chill the chickens — to process the bigger birds. It takes about as much time to process a small bird as a big bird. READ MORE 
Do turkeys respond the same way as broilers to transportation? That’s the question professional engineer Trever Crowe has been investigating at the University of Saskatchewan (UofS).

“Animal welfare is the greatest impetus for our work,” Crowe told the audience at the Poultry Industry Council 2016 Research Day in Guelph, Ont., with his work focusing on the transportation of turkeys to market. The turkey industry is facing increased demands from regulatory agencies and consumers but current broiler data may not be directly applicable to turkeys.”
Travelling Turkeys
Crowe’s objective was to investigate the response of turkey hen and tom physiology, behaviour and meat quality to different temperatures and humidity levels during simulated transport.

Crowe, the associate dean in the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the UofS and a faculty member in the department of mechanical engineering, was the principal investigator, along with his research assistant, Catherine Vermette, graduate student Zoe Henrikson, and a platoon of other casual workers helping to collect
the data.

Environmental simulation
Researchers mimicked a typical farm-rearing environment at a barn on campus with 120 12-week old turkey hens and 120 16-week old turkey toms, growing them for a week with ad lib feed and water under 16 hours of light. After reaching market age the birds were crated and exposed to simulated transportation conditions where they were randomly assigned to one of five treatments: two warm treatments at 28 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, two moderate treatments at 20 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, and one cold treatment at -18 C, all at a stocking density of approximately 83 kg/m2. Crated birds were placed inside a pre-conditioned environmental chamber for eight hours under these experimental conditions before being processed at a mini slaughter plant set up at the university’s College of Engineering.

Experimental measures included live shrink; core body temperature; behavioural observations during exposure such as sitting, standing, huddling, shivering, panting, pecking, ptiloerection and preening; blood glucose levels before and after exposure; heterophil/lymphocyte ratio and the meat quality – the pH and colour of the breast and thigh.

In terms of meat quality, Crowe hypothesized that warm exposure would result in pale, soft, exudative (PSE) meat, demonstrating a decline in pH and subsequent water holding capacity that results in tougher, paler meat. He also expected that cold exposure would result in dark, firm, dry (DFD) meat, due to an increase in muscle pH. There was the potential that meat exposed to cold would provide a larger yield, reduced drip and cook loss, with improved texture and taste scores.

The results indicate that toms tolerate the cold better than hens but hens did better in the warmer conditions.

For cold transport at -18 C, hen live shrink was greater, core body temperature tended to be lower, thermo-regulatory behaviours such as huddling, shivering, ptiloerection increased, both breast and thigh pH tended to increase and became darker when compared to both treatments at 20 C. Under the same cold conditions the blood glucose of toms had a tendency to decrease, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and thigh pH increased.

Comparing warm transport conditions, the opposite was true. Crowe found overall, that hens were less susceptible to the effects of warm transport than toms. Comparing both 28 C treatments to 20 C treatments at 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, hen live shrink was greater and thermo-regulatory behaviours such as panting increased at 28 C. For toms live shrink increased, core body temperature increased, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and breast pH increased under 28 C treatment compared to 20 C.

Research conditions
Crowe suggested that the exposure conditions were not extreme enough to cause consistent and widespread physiological changes but that changes in core body temperature indicate birds were possibly beginning to reach the limit of their thermal coping abilities. Crowe pointed out that the research was conducted under ideal conditions, with all birds healthy and dry.

Turkey physiology and behaviour were affected to a greater degree than meat quality measures; meat quality was not compromised and defects did not occur in cold or warm transported hens or toms.

Crowe suggested that the large size of turkeys relative to broilers and size differences between hens and toms likely account for some of the variation in results and make it difficult to extrapolate work done with broilers to turkeys. As he says, turkeys are not just big chickens.

Funding Partners
This work with turkeys was one of the Growing Forward II projects sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Canada and Agriculture Canada.  Crowe is now looking ahead to do similar work with end-of-cycle hens in a collaborative project with Karen Schwean-Lardner and he has also explored the possibility of similar work with broilers.  There are no immediate plans to extend this work on turkeys, although there are other turkey-related projects ongoing at the UofS.


While chefs and dieticians encourage the consumption of turkey and turkey products with nutritional information and delicious recipes, geneticists work away at the other end of the production chain, trying to create a better bird for a global market.

The consumer may never have to worry about how to stuff a 60-pound turkey in their oven for Thanksgiving, but at our current rate of progress, it’s not out of line to suggest that the farmer can expect to turn out a 20-week tom of that size for further processing markets, while still needing to produce a smaller table bird with different and possibly unique characteristics.

It’s a challenging task. Paige Rohlf is the research and development manager for Aviagen Turkeys Inc., where she manages the breeding program, selects pedigree lines, and implements new technology and selection techniques. As she explained to the audience at the 2015 PIC Innovations Conference, it takes up to four years for anything at the pedigree level to filter back into the farm level commercial bird and have an effect on the industry.

“It still takes time,” Rohlf said. “It’s very important that we have feedback.” At the pedigree level, everyone is your customer. What’s working? What’s not working? Where is the industry going? What are the domestic and global trends?

What does our Canadian bird look like now? AAFC monitors domestic turkey meat production by bird size: over 40 per cent of domestic Canadian turkey meat production is comprised of heavy birds – those weighing more than 11 kilograms – and mature turkeys. Turkey breasts coming from these large birds are used for deli products or turkey breast roasts, while the dark meat or meat from mature birds will end up as turkey kielbasa or pepperoni, turkey bacon, or turkey burgers and franks. The remaining birds that hit the market are less than 11 kilograms, with 75 per cent sold at retail as whole birds and the rest sold as parts. Our seasonal market parallels that of the U.S. with nearly 80 per cent of whole birds ending up on our Christmas or Thanksgiving tables.

Globally, Aviagen is keeping its eye on current increased production in North Africa and Russia, and potential for increasing markets with importing countries such as Mexico, the EU, China, South Africa and Russia. In terms of consumption, Asia presents a real opportunity: South Central and Eastern Asia will be dependent on importing meat because the population is growing faster than production can support. In Taiwan, turkey is a working man’s meal, as it is more affordable for restaurants to purchase whole turkeys and boil them down to serve over rice than it is to purchase broilers.

But it’s not just volume that must be contemplated when trying to define a “better bird.” The industry is also faced with factors such as increasing competition for land, water and resources, as well as an evolving consumer, making genetic decisions more challenging. In the EU, the industry has started labeling the carbon footprint on food. Rohlf predicts this trend will come our way. It’s hard to calculate but it makes people feel good to buy a product with claims of a lower carbon footprint. Add to this consumer concerns about fertilizer and pesticide use, housing and management systems, raising birds organically or with restricted antibiotics, and layered on top of changes from a whole bird market for making bigger birds and more eggs to a resource management perspective, all while keeping turkey competitive with broilers and pork.

On the production side, think about where we raise the birds. It’s different all around the world, but over the past 70 years, there has been a global trend to raise them indoors, which Rohlf points to as a big step in the right direction in terms of survival. The bird we see is the result of genetics expressed in that environment. There are a lot more inputs we can now measure every day: their weight, feed conversion and health. We can control their environment, their feed, their water and their lighting, but how much can we control their genetics?

What we can control by genetic selection is determined by the heritability of the trait – a highly heritable trait allows faster progress. For example, growth rate is highly heritable: a heavy tom mated with a heavy hen will have heavy offspring; the environment doesn’t matter as much. But it’s not all just as simple as weighing a bird. Feed efficiency is less heritable; reproduction traits, fitness or survival, and livability are much more influenced by the environment, therefore it is harder to make improvements in these traits and we have to rely on technology to collect information to make selection decisions.

When it comes to nutrition, Rohlf then raises the question, how do we feed the birds to realize their full genetic potential? “This is where the challenges are.” While large companies have their own in-house nutritionists and feed companies generally know how to feed turkeys, there are no recent published standards (the last was in 1994). Since then, U.S. heavy toms have gotten 10 pounds heavier. Are we breeding for growth rate or breast meat yield? As the saying goes, the last bit of feed is the most efficient: the birds need to gain weight for maintenance, then they put on additional weight, then the feed goes to the breast. How do the birds use different feeds for maintenance? For growth? For breast meat production?

Some in-house research is indicating protein levels can be reduced as long as amino acids are balanced, while alternative feedstuffs and fillers offer different amino acid spectrums over the traditional corn and soybean diet. More research is needed to determine how the birds utilize amino acids, or use new feeds such as dried distiller’s grains, or how probiotics will affect genetic potential.  

Rohlf is excited about a new genetic opportunity with satellite cells. These myoblasts – baby muscle cells – are determined before a bird hatches but defined after the bird is hatched. Can we make more breast meat by promoting feed intake in the first few days after hatch to stimulate these satellite cells?

Genetic programs have so far focused on efficiency, growth and fitness. For this year, Rohlf expects an improvement of 0.34 per cent in breast meat yield as per cent of live weight in toms at 20 weeks of age, continuing a steady pace of improvement. She also predicts four points of improvement in feed conversion for toms at 45 pounds (20.4 kg), from 2.45 to 2.41 pounds of feed per pound of gain. In weight, toms at 20 weeks of age will be 0.70 pounds (320 g) heavier this year. Aviagen Turkeys’ breeding goal also includes several measures of fitness, including walking ability and livability. These traits receive similar emphasis in selection as the growth and efficiency traits.




March 10, 2016 - Chick Master is introducing a new tracking tool to monitor eggshell temperature in real time. The new tool, called Tempo, is now available with Chick Master’s Maestro Hatchery Management System on all Avida Symphony setters.

The information provided by Tempo can aid hatcheries to improve chick quality. The current needs of the industry demand better tools to obtain maximum hatch results. Chick Master’s proven Maestro System is an intelligent management system that ensures communication, data monitoring and control of incubation and ventilation equipment to maximize hatchery performance.

Robert Holzer, president of Chick Master said, “One of the key factors influencing high quality chick development is proper embryo temperature during the incubation period. Tempo now adds a new dimension by providing the user the ability to monitor egg shell temperature in each zone in the most uniform single stage setter today.”

Tempo provides precise eggshell temperature data via a Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) which is used in healthcare services and medical research where precise accuracy is required. The temperature readings are not affected by the radiating heat that surrounds the targeted egg providing more precise temperature information allowing the user to better evaluate and monitor optimal embryo development.

Information provided by Tempo can be viewed as a graph on the Maestro Hatchery Management System or as a real time value on the machine’s touch screen. This feature will enable the user to modify the step program for factors including breeder flock age, egg size, fertility and season of the year to ensure proper temperature during the entire incubation process.

 UGA poultry science developed the Chkminvent app, a poultry house moisture removal and ventilation calculator intended to provide users with an estimated minimum ventilation rate required to remove the specified daily amount of moisture from a poultry house. Photo by Mike Czarick

University of Georgia poultry housing experts have released the state’s first app to help poultry farmers determine how much they should ventilate their houses during cold weather.

With thousands of birds living in a single house, keeping the air warm and fresh without spending a fortune on fuel during the winter can be one of the toughest challenges for broiler producers. The new app – called CHKMINVENT – is meant to simplify this process, said Mike Czarick, a poultry housing engineer at UGA’s Department of Poultry Science.

“In the summertime, ventilation is fairly straightforward,” he said. “The more air they can move through the house, the better off their birds will be. In the winter, there is so much more at stake. Ventilate too much and you will have excessive energy costs and stressed birds. Ventilate too little you will have poor air quality and wet litter, which can lead to poor performance and health.”

The app, available through Apple’s App Store, allows farmers to enter variables, such as the outside temperature, the amount of water the chickens consume, the temperature inside the house and the size of the poultry house’s fans. It then calculates how long farmers need to run their fans in order to remove excess moisture from the house and keep the chickens at a comfortable temperature.

“The app gives people a starting point as to how much fresh air they need to bring in to control house air quality and litter moisture,” Czarick said. “It’s not intended to provide a precise minimum ventilation rate. It’s going to take adjusting, but this at least gives a scientifically based place to start.”

For more information about the CHKMINVENT app, search for it on Apple’s App Store. For now, the app is only available for iPhone, but the team may develop versions for other operating systems based on demand for this initial version.


Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.







Incubation temperatures for egg embryos may need to be adjusted depending on the age of the broiler breeder flock and the strain of bird.  A study completed by Prof. Doug Korver at the University of Alberta shows that embryos from older flocks produce more of their own heat and if they overheat, embryonic metabolism actually slows down, which can affect early chick quality.

“The metabolism of broiler chickens has changed substantially as they’ve been selected for growth rate and breast meat yield, but incubation time has not,” explains Korver. “Modern embryos tend to produce more heat, and as breeder birds get older, they lay bigger eggs with the potential to produce more heat.”

Korver’s small but intensive study involved two modern commercial strains of broilers, Ross 308 and Ross 708.

Embryos from young breeder birds (26-34 weeks old), mid-production breeders (35-45 weeks old), and older breeder flocks (age 46-55 weeks) were incubated at four different temperature settings: 36C, 36.5C, 37C and 37.5C.

“Because the smaller embryos from younger breeder flocks produce less heat, they may need additional warmth in the incubator, whereas embryos from older flocks may need to be pulled from the hatcher sooner,” explains Korver.

The optimum incubator temperature was found to be 37C; at higher temperatures, the Ross 708 embryos reduced their metabolism to try to avoid overheating, although this wasn’t the case with the Ross 308 strain.

“Chick quality measures like weight and residual yolk sack weight were optimized at 37C,” he says. “In general, we tend to see lower growth rates and poorer performance with higher residual yolk sack weights.”

The study results show that as genetic selection continues, it may become more necessary to target hatcher management based on the age of the breeder birds.

Currently, however, most of the industry uses multi-stage hatchers with embryos from different ages of breeder birds and from different bird strains all going through together, which can make it challenging to tailor incubation conditions for a specific group of eggs.

“As the industry moves to single stage hatchers, it will become more feasible to target incubation to different batches of eggs,” says Korver.




November 13, 2014 -  Chore-Time Group, a  division of CTB, Inc. recently announced its plans to expand its manufacturing operations at its headquarters in Milford, Indiana.  
Chore-Time will invest $7.11 million to construct and equip a 45,000-square-foot (4,180-square-meter) addition to its existing 350,000-square-foot (32,500-square-meter) facility in Milford.  The addition, which is expected to be operational by the middle of next year, will allow Chore-Time to increase its manufacturing operations and add storage to support growth in global demand for Chore-Time’s poultry, egg and pig production systems.

The last expansion to Chore-Time’s Milford operation was in 1994, though CTB has had other expansion projects in Milford in recent years, including an expansion to CTB’s Brock Grain Systems division plant in 2007 and the purchase of a manufacturing and office facility for CTB’s PigTek Americas division in 2012.  Chore-Time also has facilities in Alabama, the Netherlands and Poland.


It’s an easy mistake to make.  For the most part, they look the same, sound the same, walk the same, and behave pretty much the same.  There are just a few breeds of chicken and turkey, and within those, just a few widely used strains.  Because they seem so similar, a lot of growers tend to raise the breeds the same way, resulting in inconsistent performance, or one or both breeds performing poorly on a regular basis in a particular operation.  The question is, why does one bird perform poorly compared to the other for one grower, but for another grower, the same bird outperforms its counterpart?  Well, there are a few answers…

All of the breeder companies are working toward the perfect bird, and each breed has its strengths.  But to truly find out what bird is best in any operation, they need to be raised in their ideal conditions, which can be significantly different – or maybe not necessarily so different, but small differences can significantly affect the end results.  The first example is one that is outside of the control of the producer, but can actually affect flock performance as much as any other factor, hatchery temperature and humidity profiles.  As you all know, especially in the day of mixed breed hatcheries, following the same profiles for different breeds can result in a much different chick / poult, or big differences in percent hatched of set eggs.  For those who are not well-versed in incubation and hatching, it may be surprising to find that the eggs are ventilated to release heat, rather than having to provide heat throughout the process to keep them warm.  This heat removal process is affected by egg size and shell thickness, so a strain with larger eggs or a breed with thicker shells may have a lower ambient temperature requirement to maintain the proper internal temperature.  A degree or two either way can dehydrate the poults, or alter their development, which can cause leg issues or high early mortality at the farm.  The profiles should even vary between eggs early in a flock to eggs late in a flock.

The primary breeding companies have commercial management guides, and within the guides you’ll find several tables and graphs illustrating their best recommendations for optimum performance.  One of these will be a temperature profile table.  Some of the companies have gone to as much effort to provide them along with humidity ranges so temperatures can be adjusted if there are big shifts in humidity.  One example of a difference in temperature is in the general broiler guides where we see recommendations when humidity is 50 – 60% of 75 – 79°F for Cobb, 73 – 76.5°F for Ross.  The same types of differences can also be seen in turkeys.  It is easy to see how large swings in temperature can affect performance in the summer with decreased weights.  It has been shown in trials that small early differences from standard temperatures cause lost weight and disease that is difficult to compensate for later in the flock.

Turkeys are a great example where breeds or strains within a breed can perform much differently when fed a diet not formulated for that particular bird.  Feeding a diet formulated for a different breed can actually result in weight shortfalls as much as a kilogram.  Leg, crop, feathering, and other issues can also result from formulations that are not tailored to the strain.  These types of performance problems can arise from imbalances in amino acids and other nutrients, like the balance of calcium and phosphorous.  There are strains of turkey that grow better than others when fed a veggie diet, and some are more suited for an antibiotic free program.  There are even seasonal differences, with some strains being particularly strong performers in the cooler months when low ventilation rates can cause respiratory problems or poor litter conditions, which normally would lead to higher condemn rates in other strains.

When it comes to lighting, there are many variables, and with some aspects, not enough research has been done to establish rock-solid standards.  There are still some questions, but there are some things we do know.  When it comes to colour, in general breeding birds respond to red and yellow tones best, around 3000K, while commercial birds are more flexible.  There has been little data showing much performance affect changing wavelengths for lighting meat birds.  Colour for the most part, though, is pretty universal for breeds and strains.  The real differences come in when we talk about dark periods and light intensity.  

Ross recommends a first week light intensity of 40-50 lux, reduced to 5-10 thereafter, while Cobb is at 25 lux first week, and 5-10 following.  When it comes to turkeys, Hybrid, for example recommends 80-100 lux in brood, with a reduction to as little as 60 lux after that.  Dark periods are somewhat controversial because everyone has their own ideas about “midnight snacks”, or giving birds the equivalent of a full night of sleep a people would take.  Ross and Cobb, however, have recommendations, and they vary a little.  Ross advises one hour of dark in brood, 4 hours after that, and never more than six hours.  Cobb is also at one hour in brood, and anywhere from six to twelve hours (in the case of birds with an ADG greater than 60 grams).  These are pretty dramatic differences.

In summary, it is clear that managing to the specifications of the breed and strain of bird you have is one of the big keys to maximizing performance.  From the hatchery and barn temperature and humidity profiles to the nutritional requirements and lighting recommendations, each factor can affect mortality, morbidity, feed conversion, and condemnation to a great extent.  It’s a great idea to make use of the management guides, nutritional information, and other technical support that breeding companies provide on their websites and through their representatives.




Maintaining shell quality in a breeder flock is a major focus for nutritionists and producers alike.  Poor shell quality can lead to large economic losses as a result of a decrease in the production of settable eggs per hen.  While there are many factors that influence shell quality, nutrition plays an important role in preventing cracks and other defects that may result in an egg being deemed unacceptable as a settable egg.    

Calcium is the first nutrient producers and nutritionists focus on when shell quality starts to deteriorate.  Broiler breeder hens require about 4-5 grams of calcium per hen per day to maintain calcium balance and produce a good shell on their eggs.  In today’s commercial breeder operations, hens are often fed a pelleted feed.  A typical breeder ration balanced at 3.2% calcium with hens consuming 168 grams per bird results in the total intake of 5 grams of calcium per hen (168x0.032) and meets their daily requirement for calcium. The hiccup with this feeding strategy is that hens are typically fed early in the morning, and, as a result, they consume their calcium requirement before the egg is actually in the shell gland forming a shell.  In mash and pelleted feeds, coarse limestone or oyster shell should be included in the diet.  It is not incorporated into the pellet per se, but added to the feed after it has been manufactured.  This will supply a component of the total calcium from a coarse source which is absorbed into the blood stream at a much slower rate.

Shell quality can be improved by broadcasting coarse calcium (limestone, oyster shell) in the afternoon onto the litter.  This provides the hens’ with access to a calcium source at a time of day when the shell is actually forming, thereby improving shell quality.  Broadcasting involves tossing handfuls of limestone/oyster shell out onto the shavings throughout the barn once a day.  At the same time, it is important to avoid excessive use of limestone/oyster shell as we do not want it to build up in the litter if the hens do not consume all of it.  Too much calcium can reduce shell quality, as it is known to cause pimpled and soft-shell eggs.  Hens can safely be fed one gram per bird in the afternoon by way of broadcasting.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a role in the function of calcium absorption and transport to the shell gland.  Diets low in Vitamin D can cause shell quality to deteriorate because it reduces the absorption of calcium. Breeder diets are balanced with about 3,000-3,500 IU/kg of added vitamin D, which will meet the needs of the breeder hens. When shell quality does deteriorate, it is common practice to provide additional vitamin D in the form of Hy-D (25(OH)D3).  Hy-DTM is a potent form of vitamin D that is highly available to the bird and promotes increased calcium absorption, thereby improving shell quality. Hy-DTM may be added to the feed or drinking water. Consult your nutritional advisor prior to supplementing Hy-DTMor other vitamin D3 products, as excessive intake can be harmful to the hens and shell quality.

Phosphorus is another mineral that plays a role in shell quality. The correct calcium-to-phosphorus balance is critical in maintaining shell quality because the need for phosphorus is linked to the need for calcium. Phosphorus levels that are too high can cause shell quality to deteriorate because the high levels of phosphorus induce a calcium deficiency.  When phosphorus levels are too low, we also see shell quality deteriorate because calcium metabolism is impaired.  Nutritionists work diligently to ensure that the optimal level of phosphorus is provided in a diet.  As a result, supplementing with additional phosphorus sources is not recommended without the direct involvement from your nutritionist.

 Trace Minerals
Deficiencies in trace minerals such as copper, manganese and zinc may result in thinner, wrinkled or translucent shells.  These nutrients are provided in your complete feed and are usually supplemented through the addition of a cocktail of different forms (oxide, sulfate, complexed trace minerals).  In situations where shell quality is deteriorating, it is not uncommon to add additional trace minerals to the feed in the complexed form because they are known to have the highest biological availability.

 Egg Size
As the breeder hen ages, egg size increases.  However, the total amount of shell that covers that large egg stays the same.  Consequently a bigger egg, with the same amount of shell automatically means thinner shells and more opportunities for that egg to be damaged.  To address this, we sometimes use a phase feeding strategy to manipulate the diet to help control the size of the egg.

Egg size can be manipulated by adjusting the level of protein, amino acids and linoleic acid in the diet.  Research has concluded that by reducing the total sulphur amino acids (methionine and cystine) the rate at which egg size increases can be slowed.  If we can keep the eggs on the smaller side (65-68 grams), there is less surface area to cover, resulting in thicker shells that are less vulnerable to damage.

Shell quality problems can appear in any flock.  However, nutritionists working with producers are able to manipulate various aspects of the diet in order to conquer the problem or at least minimize the impact.  This can be accomplished through adjustments to the calcium level in the feed, the calcium source, vitamins, trace minerals and through controlling egg size.  The producer, with his/her nutrition team, can develop a strategy to achieve the best shell quality possible to maximize the number of settable eggs and hatch the healthiest and best quality chick possible.



Lisa hodgins – The New Life Mills Monogastric Nutritionist discusses the important role of nutrition on the shell quality of breeder eggs



February 25, 2014 - Elanco, the animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company announced yesterday an agreement to acquire Lohmann SE (Lohmann Animal Health), a privately-held company headquartered in Cuxhaven, Germany. Lohmann Animal Health is a global leader in the supply of poultry vaccines and also markets a range of feed additives. Elanco said in a release that this acquisition will establish the company as a global poultry leader, solidify it's vaccine presence, broaden it's product offerings and significantly augment it's vaccine manufacturing capabilities.

This acquisition complements Elanco's mission to help the global food chain deliver a safe, affordable, sufficient food supply. "We believe innovation in food production is one of the most important ingredients to feeding a growing global population," said Jeff Simmons, senior vice president of Eli Lilly and Company and president of Elanco Animal Health. 

"As the middle class grows in size and affluence throughout the world, the demand for eggs and poultry is growing rapidly. However, egg layer productivity is now shrinking after decades of increases," said William (Bill) Weldon, vice president of Elanco R&D. "Delivering innovation to this industry is critical. Without it, we're on pace to double the number of hens needed, plus the massive resources to support them, in order to meet demand in 2050."

Under the terms of the agreement, Lilly will acquire all assets of Lohmann SE and its subsidiary, Lohmann Animal Health. These assets include a range of vaccines and feed additives, commercial capabilities, and manufacturing sites in Cuxhaven, Germanyand Winslow, Maine. No other terms of the transaction were disclosed.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014, contingent upon clearance from regulatory authorities and other customary closing conditions. 

October 25, 2012 - In partnership with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd. (Sunrise Poultry) has more than doubled the capacity of its turkey plant in Taber, Alberta.

The Taber plant will process 4.9 million kilograms of turkey per year, therefore growing Alberta’s share of the turkey processing industry and increasing the demand for Alberta turkey.

Eduard Fetting, Vice President of Prairie Operations at Sunrise Poultry said, “This is a great opportunity for Sunrise, the town of Taber and turkey producers in Alberta. We need more product if we are going to sell more at home and abroad. This means we need more heavy and light fowl, more production workers and a more efficient production environment. With support from ALMA, we’re able to significantly increase our production and explore broad market opportunities much sooner than originally anticipated.”

The expansion includes a significant upgrade of the existing processing equipment to handle the increased production volumes. A new wastewater treatment system reduces the environmental impact of the facility, while auto-weighing systems increase processing efficiency and help the company work around a tight labour market. Sunrise Poultry hired and trained 30 new staff members to keep up with the increased capacity of the upgraded facility. With the plant looking to further expand the range of work done in Taber by adding more light fowl processing (chicken and smaller birds), there is a high priority on finding more people in the area to fill these posts.

Gordon Cove, ALMA’s CEO, spoke about the project, “This expansion increases Alberta’s share of the turkey processing industry and opens the door for Alberta turkey to claim a greater share of the market. A larger product base and a more efficient processing environment will allow Sunrise Poultry to market more Alberta turkey and create new value-added products from light and heavy fowl. More importantly, this expansion helps the town of Taber by creating more jobs and more opportunities.”

Oct. 22, 2012 - The growth of turkeys in the United States has increased in 2012, says a new USDA report.

According to the latest USDA Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, turkey meat production has increasing 5.7 per cent from last year. The report states that not only was production up by 5.7 per cent, but the amount of turkeys slaughtered was 3.8 per cent higher and average weight showed an increase of 1.3 per cent.

However, poult placements and turkey eggs in incubators were down by 1.7 and 6.3 per cent, respectively.

For more on the state of the US turkey industry, please read the full USDA report here.

Fitness traits are of considerable importance for Canadian turkey producers, not only because they are directly related to production and economic profitability, but increasingly because of societal concern about animal welfare. Although poultry breeding programs have succeeded in improving productivity through selecting for higher growth rate and meat yield, successfully selecting for survival and health traits is much more difficult. Despite the importance of fitness in turkey genetic improvement programs, genetic parameters for survival, skeletal and locomotion traits, and associations of these parameters with other economic production traits have rarely been estimated and published in turkeys.

Survival is one general measure of an animal’s fitness. In commercial poultry farming, mortality may result from a variety of conditions, including disease, physiological stress and aggressive behaviour. In the simplest selection approach, bird survival is used as an indicator for many underlying health traits to be simultaneously improved. In selective breeding programs, skeletal and locomotion traits are of additional interest as indicator traits for overall bird survival and fitness. Some conformation defects have shown a genetic basis and have been connected to survival differences between turkey strains.

Drs. Ben Wood (Hybrid Turkeys), Steve Miller and Cheryl Quinton (University of Guelph) have been examining the quantitative genetics of specific fitness traits in turkeys and their effects on overall survival and other economically important traits. Their main goal is to find optimal selection methods to improve survival and fitness in modern commercial turkey strains. 

The research team studied production and fitness data from two strains in Hybrid Turkeys’ nucleus breeding program. Full pedigree and performance records were compiled from approximately 530,000 birds hatched between 2000 and 2008. Performance records included production traits (growth, egg production); survival traits (early- and late-period survival, longevity); and structural fitness traits (walking ability; structures of breast, back, hip, leg, foot and wing; disorders of footpad, skin, head and eye, crop). Survival and conformation traits and walking ability were scored.

Their findings? Body weights and egg production displayed moderate heritability whereas survival and fitness traits generally showed low heritability. Early survival (to three weeks) displayed low heritability, whereas late survival (three to 23 weeks) and longevity (age at death or cull) had low to moderate heritability. Correlation results suggested that early and late survival were likely genetically distinct traits. Leg structure health, hip structure health, foot health and skin health all displayed low heritability. Crop health displayed moderate heritability.

Correlation results suggest that unchecked selection for growth could reduce survival, walking ability, and hip, leg, footpad and skin health in turkeys. Therefore selection for better fitness is necessary to avoid deleterious effects of selection on growth alone. However, selection for increased egg production should not be detrimental to survival, based on correlations.

It was also shown that walking ability is a good indicator of fitness genotype. Selecting birds with good walking scores, or integrating these records in estimated breeding value calculation should indirectly improve other fitness traits.

The fitness trait parameters found in this study are for two genetically and functionally distinct populations currently used in Hybrid Turkeys’ breeding program, and account for the particular environment in which they are reared. Therefore, these parameters can be directly used in company genetic evaluations to more accurately select parents with superior fitness genotypes. Continuing this study, Hybrid Turkeys will be investigating methods to incorporate these results into its commercial multi-trait selection program.

Overall, this research contributes to knowledge of the genetic basis of fitness in turkeys and other poultry. These results will help Hybrid Turkeys and the poultry industry to develop more robust birds, increasing commercial income and profitability while improving animal welfare. For more information on this study, please visit .

PIC Picks
Changing of the Guard at PIC

By Tim Nelson, Executive Director

After many years at the helm Ed McKinlay has stepped down as PIC chairman. McKinlay has decided not to stand again as chairman and has also stepped down from the PIC board of directors. He made the announcement at the PIC’s annual general meeting, held Oct. 4 at Kay House in Guelph.

McKinlay, an egg, broiler and pullet producer, is a great proponent of the value of collective investment in research and education and continued to promote this throughout his chairmanship. This was exemplified in his last speech at the PIC meeting, where he said: “By sharing costs the poultry industry is able to provide effective, efficient research and education that provides farmers and other stakeholders with information that prepares them for the future.

“Because of prior investment in research leading to improvements in genetics, management, nutrition, health and welfare, poultry products remain very competitive with other proteins and food choices in the marketplace. The new information created through the research has been adopted by producers and industry, which has provided huge leaps in productivity and, as a result, sustained wealth.”

Along with his fellow board members, McKinlay presided over the PIC through some very turbulent times. In 2008 the board recognized that PIC needed to be more proactive in the delivery of research results to producers if producers were expected to continue to support PIC research. The resultant strategy was to include education in the overall mandate of the organization, which had traditionally been to fund research on behalf of all sectors of industry. The PIC has successfully been able to diversify and has provided a variety of targeted educational initiatives over the past two years, with more planned for the next 18 months.

McKinlay highlighted some of these initiatives: “Once again, PIC has very successfully partnered with OMAFRA to deliver the regional producer updates, administer the Biosecurity Outreach Program funded through Growing Forward, develop the PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) poultry welfare auditing course materials and develop the soon-to-be-released poultry transport decision support booklet ‘Should this bird be loaded?’

We have continued to work with the two poultry clubs at the University of Guelph, where students and PIC staff have developed a biosecurity video for release in the fall of 2011.

“PIC has also partnered with the university and OMAFRA on a number of educational initiatives funded by the province under the OMAFRA/U of G agreement and has been able to take advantage of various provincial funding opportunities made available through the emergency management and production funds offered by the province through OMAFRA. This year PIC has also been involved as project manager on several initiatives using funds provided by the federal government through the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

We thank all of these partners for their ongoing support.”

McKinlay’s unassuming, assured guidance will be missed around the PIC board table but he is ably replaced by Dr. Helen Ann Hudson, who has served on the PIC board for a number of years and at an executive level as chair of the Research Committee. 

Gary Fread replaces McKinlay on the board as an independent director. Fread will bring another level of knowledge and skills to the board, particularly in relation to how we more successfully integrate our work with other partners along the value chain. He has spent 25 years in senior management positions in food processing and was recently president and CEO of the Guelph Food Technology Centre.

PIC also welcomes Don Copland, no stranger to the Ontario poultry industry scene. He is a former broiler breeder grower and chicken producer and will be a great asset around the PIC board table, having just completed a stint as chairman of the Poultry Research Centre at the University of Alberta, an organization with whom PIC has a long-standing and fruitful relationship.

Copland replaces Bob Guy, general, manager of the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission (OBHECC) as the OBHECC’s appointed representative.

Guy has also been a long-standing board member at PIC and shared the tough times and the responsibility of developing a new vision and mission for the organization along with McKinlay and their fellow board members. Being a senior industry manager, Guy had a larger industry perspective, and a strategic and politically astute analysis of issues and how investment in research and education can be best utilized to help manage them.

On behalf of the poultry industry in Ontario, the new chairman and board of directors wish to publicly acknowledge McKinlay and Guy’s huge contribution to poultry research and education in this province and thank them for their guidance around the PIC board table.

PIC would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those who have supported us throughout 2011 and offer our very best to you and yours for the festive season and for a prosperous 2012.

Featured Researcher

Dr. Ben Wood hails from Australia, where he obtained his degree in veterinary science, followed by a PhD in beef cattle genetics.  He is now a quantitative geneticist with Hybrid (a Hendrix Genetics company), and has been adjunct faculty with the University of Guelph’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science since 2007.  Dr. Wood is involved in collaborative research with Dr. Steve Miller (quantitative geneticists and director of the Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock), Dr. Cheryl Quentin (postdoctoral researcher at the University of Guelph) and Dr. Stephanie Torrey (research scientist in poultry behaviour and welfare with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada).  Much of his research is conducted using Hybrid pedigree farms historical data or data collected by PhD candidates on farm, two of which Dr. Wood supervises. Collaborative research projects include effects of genotype and environmental interaction on egg production, ultrasound use for the assessment of breast meat yield, and aspects of feed efficiency measurement and assessment – particularly the use of individual feed intake assessment using radio frequency identification technology. Dr. Wood is also investigating the effects of genetics on lowering the environmental impact of poultry production, particularly greenhouse gas emissions (C02 and methane), and genetic control of feather pecking in turkeys.

It’s picture postcard perfect. So much so that, a few years ago, local politicians overruled their officials and allowed a second house to be constructed at the far end of the broad, green expanse of lawn.

The politicians were effusive in their praise of the homes, the setting, the maintenance and the overall farm.

One local councillor declared it a showpiece. Another said it was just the type of farm the county was encouraging. It had a retail outlet, a processing facility and turkey barns out back.

They were talking about Lakeview Farms, located just outside Dunnville in Haldimand County in southern Ontario.

In recent years, Haldimand County, like many other municipalities, clambered aboard the local food bandwagon, encouraging farms to value add and consumers and restaurants to buy local.

It is something that John and Pat DeKlerk, owners of Lakeview Farms, had been doing and promoting long before there was a bandwagon, a local food movement or a 100-mile diet. Lakeview Farms, located south of Hamilton near the north shore of Lake Erie is in the process of focusing even more on producing homegrown, home processed and regionally marketed turkey and turkey products.

With a generational shift underway it has moved from being one of Ontario’s largest turkey producers to placing more emphasis on on-farm processing and local/regional retailing.

The farm used to have more than a million pounds of quota. That has been reduced to about 15,000 birds, or enough to supply the processing line, serve its own retail store and satisfy other customers.

The new owners, John and Pat’s daughter Liz and son-in-law Andrew Schilstra, are building on a solid base of long-term customers – some of whom now live hundreds of kilometres away but will pick up a turkey or turkey product whenever they are visiting friends or family in the Dunnville area – and word of mouth.

Capitalizing on Schilstra’s processing expertise, it also continues to expand its product line. It isn’t just frozen turkeys. They have introduced a unique product – peameal turkey bacon – that has become very successful and sell turkey pies, turkey rolls and other turkey and poultry products.

When John DeKlerk started his turkey operation in 1967 he knew it was something he wanted to do. He had grown up on a dairy farm, tried truck driving for a couple of years and then worked on a turkey farm. He enjoyed it and bought his own farm just before supply management was introduced.

Initially he contracted with Ralston Purina to grow turkeys for the company. He soon learned that much of the turkey business revolved around Christmas and Thanksgiving. Believing that more could be done, he evaluated going into processing as well. He started by producing a New York dressed turkey for area butcher shops. “In 1974 I started wholesaling New York dressed turkeys, that’s where the money is made.”

Then with three partners he opened a processing plant in Mississauga and began turning out everything from turkey burgers to turkey salami to turkey roasts.

In the Oct. 7, 1983, edition of the Calvinist Contact, DeKlerk said: “Four years ago we started with zilch. Now it’s 70 to 80 thousand pounds of boneless meat per week.”

“Our product is not cheap, but it is high quality,” he said in the article.

In the 1970s he had opened the retail outlet on the farm. The reason for branching out was straightforward – profit. He said the minimally processed New York-style birds brought 40 per cent more than live turkeys and other further processed products added to the bottom line.

DeKlerk got 100,000 lb. of quota in 1967 when supply management began. Then in 1972, things really changed when the marketing board got pricing power. For farmers that was huge.

“If you did a good job you made a profit.”

DeKlerk said supply management did come with production controls, but said, “I’d rather be told what I can produce than work for nothing.” Working for nothing was all too frequent in the days before supply management.

“If it wasn’t for supply management there’d be very few poultry farms around these days,” he said.

DeKlerk also gave back to the supply management system and served on the Ontario marketing board for 20 years from 1974 to 1994.

Working within the system, in 1978, DeKlerk started distributing turkey products from processing companies and “it went well.”

In 1988, “we started doing our own processing in Burlington.” In 1992, they sold the Burlington plant and moved the processing to Dunnville

In 1997, Schilstra started with the company focusing on the processing side and adding value.

Today, Lakeview produces 15,000 birds and retails whole turkeys and a wide variety of products out of the on-farm store and to customers in the surrounding area, including Niagara.

“The birds are raised here and sold here,” said Schilstra. This fits right in with the shift in consumer attitudes to a preference for healthy, locally produced food.

The processing plant is producing ready to cook turkey products with different flavourings, turkey pies, peameal turkey bacon (which Schilstra says is “fantastic,”) turkey rolls and more.

“There are lots of ideas on the processing side,” he said.

A major strength in doing your own processing and retailing comes from knowing your customers. The company doesn’t have salespeople and so customer feedback comes direct to the owners. “We know our market,” he said.

Much of that market has been built by word of mouth. One satisfied customer tells someone and they try the turkey and pass the word along. It has been a successful formula. But Lakeview is now expanding the marketing a bit to see what will work for them.

It also all revolves around family. DeKlerk said: “For me, it’s nice to see my daughter and her husband take over.”

Schilstra added that it’s a “family business.” He Liz and their three children are all involved.

He said, “John had a lot of the work done before I came aboard.”

“But the business does not run on its own and we hope to keep going forward.”

Survey Says: Consumers Want Local
Canadians are looking to put more locally grown food on the table, a trend that is catching on throughout the year, according to the Bank of Montreal.

A survey, commissioned by Leger Marketing, shows the majority of Canadians (94 per cent) believe it’s important to support local farmers and buy local on a regular basis.

“Canadians understand the significant contribution our farm families, and the agricultural industry as a whole, make to Canada’s national economy,” said David Rinneard,

national manager, agriculture, BMO Bank of Montreal. “By buying locally, it supports an industry that currently employs one in eight jobs directly and accounts for approximately eight per cent of Canada’s total GDP.”

The survey also revealed that Canadians try to purchase the following homegrown products always or frequently:
  • poultry (77 per cent)
  • vegetables (77 per cent)
  • beef (75 per cent)
  • fruit (70 per cent)
  • cheese (70 per cent)
The survey was completed online from June 27 to 30, 2011, using Leger Marketing’s online panel, LegerWeb. A sample of 1,576 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, were surveyed.

The BMO survey echoes an earlier report from the Guelph Food Panel that found consumers have a positive view of farming in Canada and consider that buying local foods supports local farmers and is an important thing to do.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents indicated they agreed with the statement “it is important to support our local farmers.”

Meanwhile, in a U.S. study by the Food Marketing Institute in 2009, consumers cited freshness (82 per cent), support for the local economy (75 per cent), and knowing the source of the product (58 per cent) as reasons for buying local food.

“Several studies have identified consumer perceptions of local food, including that local produce is fresher looking and tasting, of higher quality, and a better value for the price,” the report said.

At the same time the food choices of many Canadians are being influenced by the economic downturn, poultry is still a popular choice for families for a variety of reasons, including health and taste. Building on this idea, provincial turkey marketing boards across the country are looking to boost traditional and new turkey products beyond their present sales. 

“Although the turkey market has been relatively flat [see sidebar Pg 16], and we’ve been able to maintain our market share, our goal is growth,” says Mark Davies, chair of the Turkey Farmers of Canada. “We’re working to get consumers thinking of turkey as an everyday choice, and not just as something to be served at holiday meals three times a year.”

Although some provincial turkey boards have collaborated in the past on various marketing items such as recipe books, each province mainly does its own thing. Turkey Farmers of Ontario (TFO) recently released a television commercial that they’ve received some very positive feedback about, although the ad was only shown on Ontario TV channels for six weeks. “It is, however, on our website and on YouTube, so [all] Canadians could have seen it,” says TFO general manager Janet Schlitt.

She says it’s too early to tell what the impact of the commercial has had on purchasing habits; TFO may also produce a new commercial in future. As a followup, TFO implemented an on-pack sticker program on fresh tray pack items for approximately one month in hundreds of retail stores across Ontario. There was also a $5 rebate program from August to October where consumers had to send in their turkey product receipt and the recipe used.

There are many other components to TFO’s current marketing strategy, including a new logo for Ontario Turkey, and a social media campaign that uses Twitter to post relevant stories, recipes and links. There are guest “Tweets” and Facebook posts from Emily Richards (cookbook author and more) and Leslie Gordon-Christie (personal trainer and life coach) about health, fitness and food. TFO has created six Youtube cooking videos featuring Emily Richards, is revamping its consumer site,, and also recently hosted a contest on that included ads, articles and recipes to encourage turkey consumption.

Research and report
In March 2011, TFO received a commissioned report by dietician/researcher Jane Dummer entitled “Innovating and improving fresh chilled turkey pieces to appeal to, and remain competitive in, the Ontario market.” It includes a look at products currently in Ontario and recommendations for new ones. Dummer suggests that a one-kilogram breast (bone in, skin on) could be sold with separate seasoning blends or stuffing (e.g., cranberry, oregano) as a meal kit with preparation instructions and a recipe, and that smaller portions of the full breast could also be offered in a similar fashion. “New, innovative and ethnic flavours and seasonings could be applied to fresh stir-fry pieces for uses in other recipes such as tacos, quesadillas, stews and casseroles,” Dummer asserts. “An interesting concept that could be explored is offering turkey options at the display-and-serve counter. A variety of flavoured schnitzel pieces are a great fit for this concept, where the consumer picks out the number and variety of pieces and the retail employee packages it on site.”

Dummer identified the top five poultry flavour profiles (considering the ethnic population of the Toronto area, where flavours were later tested): Asian (ginger, garlic and a low-sodium oyster sauce, or mandarin orange, ginger and green onion), South American-Peruvian (hot red chili and lime or citrus), Indian (medium heat curry blend and/or masala with a roasted flavour), Italian (balsamic fig and oregano or sage) and North American (apple wood smoked maple). These flavour profiles were tested with fresh turkey breast pieces in a formal consumer research taste panel (with Mild Italian and Indian Curry as the top choices), and then tested in a retail environment (Longo’s supermarket) during November and December 2010.

Four flavours of fresh, flavoured turkey pieces were offered at 14.99 per kilogram (approximately $9 to $10 per tray), with no marketing or advertising. The top two flavours purchased were Chili Lime with a 65 per cent uptake rate and Mild Italian with a 62 per cent uptake rate. This was surprising, as Chili Lime was not one of the top two in the original taste panel. An uptake rate of greater than 60 per cent is an acceptable outcome and would be considered a success with respect to the use of no marketing initiatives. Longo’s advertised and sold the top two flavours during spring and summer 2011, and will do the same in 2012.

Les Éleveurs de volailles du Quèbec (EVQ, Quebec’s marketing board for chicken and turkey) is also doing a lot of social media and Internet marketing to promote turkey. “We are very active on the Internet,” says EVQ marketing and communication director Christian Dauth. “Our French-language site ( features recipes, video clips of a chef demonstrating how to prepare turkey dishes, contests and information on how turkey is raised.” Consumers can also sign up for a weekly e-newsletter or visit the EVQ Facebook page (it’s only six months old but has over 4,000 fans). “We are also promoting turkey cuts to hospitals, cafeterias, schools and more through a broker,” Dauth says. “In retail outlets, we’re developing with our broker merchandising programs with major supermarket chains. We also book flyer ads, and make recipes and other point-of-sale materials available.” In addition, EVQ has a joint marketing program with processors. 

New products on the market
Maple Leaf offers a variety of Maple Leaf “Prime” turkey products, including thighs, breasts, boneless skinless breasts, breast fillets, breast slices, scallopini, stir-fry pieces, drumsticks, extra-lean ground, extra-lean minced, sausages (Bavarian, Hot Italian, Sweet Italian) and winglets-drumlets. Two other products are particularly health-oriented: Breakfast Grill Turkey’NBacon (turkey combined with bacon) and Natural Selections Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast (in pre-packaged slices and at the deli counter) containing turkey, water, sea salt, vinegar, potato starch, lemon juice concentrate, cane sugar, cultured celery extract and spice.

Granny’s Poultry Cooperative Inc. in Winnipeg, Man., has launched three new turkey products in the last 18 months. Granny’s now offers a stuffed turkey breast roast (with traditional stuffing) that is cooked from frozen, and a naturally smoked deli roast for store deli counters, both infused with flax oil (containing heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) and carrying “Health Check” approval from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Granny’s also offers “Omega-3” whole birds, which receive flax in their feeding program. “We believe omega-3 fatty-acid content is a good selling point,” says Jason Wortzman, Granny’s director of marketing and product development and a chef.

Being a co-operative owned by farmers, and the only turkey processor in Manitoba, not to mention supplying about half the Saskatchewan market, Granny’s also produces ground turkey and pieces for retail year-round. “Ground turkey sales have really picked up over the last few years,” says Wortzman. “It’s becoming an identifiable product outside of holiday meal whole birds, and fits well into existing family menu planning, for items like burgers, taco filling and spaghetti sauce. We’re also hoping to add pieces with specialty flavours in the future.” Granny’s promotes turkey through coupons, in-store features and online advertising.  Yorkshire Valley Farms, Canada’s largest organic poultry business, will be offering whole organic turkeys this festive season at Loblaws, Longo’s, Sobeys, Highland Farms and several quality independent food retailers in the Toronto area.

As Mark Davies, Chair of the Turkey Farmers of Canada, says, “It’s a challenging time, but a promising time, for turkey. There’s a world of opportunity out there for the industry to grasp and that’s exciting.”

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