Push boundaries on poultry

Poultry producers have to step out of their comfort zones, said Andrew Maunder of Lloyd Maunder at the Egg & Poultry Industry Conference earlier this month.

With welfare higher on the agenda, he called on poultry producers to push the boundaries to provide value and choice.

Change, he added, was often difficult and uncomfortable for poultry producers, but since it was inevitable, farmers needed to pick up the baton and match the innovative vigour of the RSPCA, as well as TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The poultry sector had to embrace outside intervention as it was not going to go away. "They all have something to bring to the party now," he said.

Fearnley-Whittingstall and Oliver, Maunder acknowledged, had turned the poultry industry on its head in 2008, "by taking a crowbar and cracking open our industry for everyone to see". While this was not always done accurately nor fairly, he said, it was to great effect and the result on the industry had been huge.

Maunder had collaborated with Oliver and Fearnley-Whittingstall and let them film on his farms because he felt it was better to be in the debate rather than have judgement cast in his absence.

He also recounted how Lloyd Maunder had started taking chicken welfare into consideration back in 1996, when, with the backing of Sainsbury's, it put chickens outdoors to rear them free-range for retail. At that time, the company had already realised that consumers were wanting more choice and that welfare was beginning to become a consideration among poultry purchasers, he explained.

That was the opportunity for innovation, but the poultry industry wanted to continue what it had been doing, which was to focus on cost, because it did

this well, he told delegates

"The reality was that we got complacent and so were in danger of losing our place in the driving seat."

That had changed, however, and retailers were now innovating alongside poultry producers, he added.

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