REAL policy changes from Governments will be needed if the poultry sector is to meet the 2050 deadline for net zero, according to one of the UK’s leading broiler producers.
Of all the major sectors working towards the deadline, such as transport, home heating, or construction, animal agriculture was the only one not on track to meet this to some extent, said Moy Park’s agriculture director Justin Coleman.
A lot of the problems were created by unfair policies, he believed: “Defra and Daera are so far removed from reality at the moment, it’s unbelievable.
“As an industry, how do we get them at the table?” asked Mr Coleman, speaking at the Poultry Network conference at Harper Adams on 6 September.
An example was the ground-breaking bio-digestion plant in Ballymena, the first in the world to be run on 100% broiler litter, which all came from Moy Park units.
It has planning permission to expand from 2Kw to 8Kw, and at the higher level, it would generate enough energy to make the poultry industry carbon-positive.
But under the current rules, the carbon credit for electricity generation from farmyard waste goes to the energy sector.
“All we end up with is a punitive penalty in the agricultural sector,” said Mr Coleman.
“What we are challenging is that the sector providing the raw material for the energy be credited with that. Policy plays a key role in overcoming these problems.”
Achieving sustainability is not just about carbon, finance and economics, he added.
It was about, air, water and soil quality; biodiversity; how all those ecosystems interacted with one another; about the role we play in the societies we work in; and more and more becoming about other gases such as ammonia and methane.
“These are becoming a much bigger challenge to resolve, whereas with CO2, you can almost see a route to resolving it.”
He warned against feeling overwhelmed. “You can quickly get into a doom loop: biodiversity collapses, climate change is coming, the world is ending, how we are going to pay for it, how are we going to fix it.”
Economics lay behind solving these issues, he suggested.
How we value food
“Ultimately, they are solvable, but it means a huge shift in the way we think about how we value food.”
Mr Coleman described a specific success: Moy Park has recently completed its first ‘off-grid’ broiler unit.
Commissioned at the start of this year, it is now on its fourth crop.
Beech Farm produces its own energy, uses ground source heat pumps, and harvests its rainwater. It is a net exporter of power back to the grid.
“It wasn’t cheap to build. We wanted to discover whether it could be done.”
He reckoned that the farm installation would pay for itself in 10 years, and the energy measures would take 5-7 years, depending on energy prices.
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