24 June 2018 | Online since 2003

5 June 2018

Chairman's Comment - June 2018

Thank you to everyone who visited the BFREPA stand and seminar at the Pig and Poultry Fair.

The seminar, which was hosted by Adam Henson was a fantastic success, with standing room only. Many newspapers and journals ran with the sustainability funded research on multi-tier and flat deck systems. For those that could not make it, a detailed conclusion of the research will be printed in a future Ranger.

General conversation at the conference unsurprisingly focused on perching, beak tipping and the consequences of expansion on the whole egg market leading up to 2025. We have substantial challenges facing our industry, challenges we currently have no answers for! I know flat deck producers who will cease trading as a result of the new Freedom Food perching requirements, not just due to the extra cost of implementation, but they strongly believe these changes will adversely affect the birds’ welfare. These flat deck producers will be replaced very quickly by the queues of new 32,000 bird multi-tier producers already in planning.

Welfare payments, the beak trimming ban and the retailers’ intentions for 2025 may signal a change in direction for egg production in this country. The three issues may unintentionally become linked and we end up with a whole solution for all three. This could even be a white bird and a white value egg.

More needs to be done to create an environment where barn replaces 15 million colony eggs. Can retailers guarantee a barn producers investment for 10 years when they have no control over consumer trends, especially when consumers knowledge on barn is so low? Will welfare groups be satisfied with barn as a welfare concept?
For free range to hang on to its premium it cannot afford to be larger than 70% of the market. The supermarkets are unlikely to want to clobber a Brexit weary consumer with a steep rise in their shopping basket by taking away a value egg. A premium by its very nature is a sum added to an ordinary price - so we need to ensure that free range does not become an ordinary product. The market is already looking for other premium differences as demand for organic, speciality eggs and branded egg grows. Value free range may become a reality unless a buffer can be found so producers can ensure their eggs have a point of difference.

The AI Prevention Zone has been lifted across England and Wales. The threat of AI lingers over all of us throughout the year and we must always remain vigilant, however, subject to there being no new outbreaks, we are no longer required by law to follow specific disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds. This year the Prevention Zone order lasted roughly 4 months, and whilst the implications were not quite as serious as the previous year, it is quickly becoming a staple of the egg producers calendar.