Poultry farmers insist systems are in place to prevent an outbreak of avian flu causing devastation to the nation’s poultry flock -- and claim that consumers are not being put off buying chicken and eggs by panic related to the spread of the disease in Europe.
Biosecurity measures have been stepped up, according to the chairman of the National Farmers’ Union poultry committee, Charles Bourns, with the spraying of lorry wheels, the restriction of farm visitors to essential callers and increased pet and rodent control.
“Free-range farmers
have stopped feeding and watering their chickens at range so that they have to come back in to feed,” he added. “If necessary, free-range flocks in potential hotspots will be shut indoors.”
He said he believed that enough was being done to avoid a mass slaughter of birds. “The poultry industry has worked with Defra for two years on a contingency plan, so we are not going to have a foot-and-mouth scenario where there are 12,500 animals affected before they get on top of the first case.
“The market for chickens is different because they don’t go from market to market, but from farm to plant and then to the retail outlet. And there is absolutely no disease spread from poultry meat.”
He added: “Sales of eggs and poultry meat are holding firm. Consumers seem to be realising it’s a disease of poultry and not of humans, which is good news.”
Meanwhile, processor Grampian Country Food Group has admitted the threat of bird flu has forced it to put its campaign for higher prices from customers on hold.
A spokesman said there had been price rises in some areas, including pigmeat, but only limited increases in the chicken category. Talks would continue, he insisted, but the focus was currently on “other issues, such as bird flu”.
Greg Meenehan