World poultry day

In conjunction with World Poultry Day on May 10th, the International Poultry Council is initiating an awareness drive on food insecurity. Will poultry be able to fill the gap in world protein supplies without any health concerns?

Background 

Poultry products are considered to be an affordable and healthy protein source with no religious restrictions. It has become the world’s preferred meat with the highest per capita consumption globally. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that 31 billion pounds of chicken will be consumed in 2019. 

By 2024 poultry meat consumption in the developed economies is expected to have risen from 5.2 million tonnes to 48.8 million tonnes, while for the developing nations a 16.7 million tonnes increase is anticipated as the total rises to 84.2 million tonnes. 

Antibiotics have been used in poultry farming in mass quantities since 1951 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved their use. Chickens were reaching their market weight at a much faster rate and at lower costs. With a growing population and greater demand on the farmers, antibiotics appeared to be an ideal and cost-effective way to increase the output of poultry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), has identified the emergence of bacterial antibiotic resistance as a national threat.

Analysis

The International Poultry Council (IPC) has marked May 10th as World Poultry Day to increase the worldwide awareness of food insecurity and antibiotic resistance. 

The total worldwide poultry production will exceed that of pork in 2019 due to production losses because of swine fever in hogs and pigs in China and elsewhere. With 2.2 billion more mouths to feed by 2050, experts estimate food production must grow by 70 percent. 

“World Poultry Day will dawn on May 10 with industry members working by the hundreds of thousands all over the world to produce and deliver to consumers the most nutritious, healthful and sustainable of all the meat proteins,” said Canada’s Robin Horel, president of the International Poultry Council. “We are inviting poultry producers in every country to join IPC in celebrating World Poultry Day and challenging them to use the opportunity to proactively engage in the debate about food security and sustainability.”

Rapid growth in consumer demand for livestock products in developing countries is being met by a corresponding growth in poultry meat and egg production and consumption. As emerging cultures increase their wealth, meat consumption will continue to increase globally. Greater assortment, better prices and increased transparency are among the top factors shoppers seek from the meat case, with one-third of shoppers indicating they would like improved information about when an item was prepared as well as the quality of the meat, according to the Power of Meat 2019. Costco which has cultivated a loyal base of brand enthusiasts with its $4.99 rotisserie chicken plans to open a massive chicken operation in Nebraska in 2019 to harness the supply chain to support its rotisserie chicken program. The $300 million plant will reportedly produce about 100 million chickens a year.

Assessment

Our assessment is that as the demand poultry production increases, these points have to be monitored with regards to human health: 

  • Local disturbances (e.g. odour, flies and rodents) and landscape degradation are typical local negative outcomes in the surroundings of poultry farms.
  • Pesticides used to control pests (e.g. parasites and disease vectors) and predators have been reported to cause pollution when they enter groundwater and surface water.
  • Improper disposal of poultry carcasses can contribute to water-quality problems especially in areas prone to flooding or where there is a shallow water table. 
  • Poultry slaughterhouses release large amounts of waste into the environment, polluting land and surface waters as well as posing a serious human health risk.
  • After animals have been fed antibiotics over a period of time, they retain the strains of bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics. The resistant bacteria are transmitted to the other animals, thus forming colonization of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Humans can get these resistant bacteria in their bodies by eating meat from animals with resistant bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistance is responsible for 25,000 annual deaths in the European Union and 23,000 annual deaths in the U.S. As many as 2 million U.S. individuals develop a drug-resistant infection each year.

India Watch

In India, while agricultural production has been rising at a rate of 2 percent per annum, poultry production has been rising at a rate of 8 percent per annum. Poultry meat has outpaced its two major competitors – beef and veal, and buffalo meat. Higher per capita income growth and relatively low prices have played a catalytic role. India is the third largest egg producer in the world (after China and the United States of America), and the nineteenth largest broiler producer. India is projected to contribute to the greatest amount of additional poultry meat by 2027. 

Experts have predicted that the rising demand for protein will cause a surge in antibiotic use. In 2018, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed how Venky’s Ltd has been supplying colistin to farmers. At least five pharmaceutical companies are openly advertising products containing colistin as growth promoters. Professor Walsh, who is also an adviser to the United Nations on antimicrobial resistance. “It is the only drug we have left to treat critically ill patients with a carbapenem-resistant infection. Giving it to chickens as feed is crazy.”