AVEC, which represents the European poultry sector, has outlined the challenges it sees facing the supply chain in its most recent annual report. Here, we summarise the issues facing the sector.

The report was published at the organisation’s AGM, held this year in Gdansk, Poland in Early September.

1 Welfare

In February, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its opinion on the welfare of broiler chickens. Two recommendations – one to restrict growth rates and another to cut stocking densities – are of particular concern to AVEC.

On stocking densities, EFSA’s scientific panel said: “A maximum stocking density of 11 kg/m2 for fast-growing broiler chickens is recommended to prevent the welfare consequences identified as highly relevant.”

In response, Avec said, “If implemented, this one recommendation would reduce European poultry meat production to 30% of self-sufficient levels (as opposed to 113% today) and result in higher imports from third countries with lower welfare standards.

“Avec’s members are entirely willing to continue improving animal welfare, but not to decimate their own production.”

The Commission’s impact assessment and proposed texts of the revised animal welfare legislation have not yet been published.

2 Trade

Third-country imports to the EU have increased ‘massively’, this year, according to Avec. Imports of Brazilian and Thai poultrymeat are up 30% and 35%, respectively in the first few months of 2023 – following record imports in 2022.

The unlimited importation of poultrymeat from Ukraine remains – a measure brought in at the outset of the Russian invasion.

Avec said that, while it supported the Ukrainian people and collective EU action, “we believe it is unfair that our sector should bear such a large share of the collective burden”.

The group has written to the EU Commission asking for safeguards to be put in place.

3 Avian influenza

Between 3 December 2022 and 1 March 2023, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A(H5N1) virus was reported in 522 domestic and 1,138 wild birds across 24 European countries.

Given the scale of outbreaks across the continent, the role of vaccination as a control is now being considered. Avec says it could be part of a strategy alongside “many other measures”.

The organisation notes
in particular, the cost of surveillance required by the EU and the potential for trade disruption if vaccination is introduced.