REPORTS have emerged that the UK is proposing to allow the import of American chicken, subject to standards-based tariffs.
The intention is to make poultry produced to a lower standard of welfare or food hygiene uneconomical for export.
According to the Telegraph, the latest government proposals for a US trade deal are to introduce higher tariffs for poultry produced to lower standards than in the UK.
But work conducted for AVEC, which represents the European poultry industry, demonstrates how challenging that would be.
While standards such as stocking density and the requirement for enrichments such as windows, bales and perches add cost to British chicken production, many other inputs are far lower in the US.
The UK’s poultry industry has some of the highest costs of production in Europe for poultrymeat, with chicks and feed coming in above most other countries on the continent.
A 2018 report from Wageningen University found the average cost of production for UK chicken was 86.5 eurocents/kg in total, and that American poultry was produced for just 64.5 eurocents/kg.
Feed was the most significantly different input, with the average UK cost put at 51.1 eurocents, compared with 44.1 eurocents/kg in the US.
At the time, the report’s author said: “The lower feed price in these countries can largely be explained by the domestic availability of sizeable quantities of feed ingredients such as maise and soybean.
“European producers partly depend on South American imports for their feed ingredients. The costs of storage, transport and margins increase the price of feed ingredients in Europe. The price of day-old chicks is also lower because of the low feed price.”
Even if the UK’s Red Tractor standard was applied to American poultrymeat, it would still be significantly cheaper than a UK equivalent.
The NFU has launched a petition that has, to date garnered more than half a million signatures. It calls for the UK government to “put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK, which is produced in ways that would be illegal here”.
The union also pointed to its ambition to produce carbon-neutral food by 2021, with president Minette Batters saying: “We are talking right across NGOs, farming organisations and with consumers to make this case.
“We are pulling on every lever on behalf of farmers to land this message and pave the way for a future that is about achieving carbon-neutral food by 2040.”