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Poultry Scientists Help Put Chicken on School Menus

by 5m Editor
29 March 2010, at 12:23p.m.

US - Poultry scientists are providing input and information to a meeting aimed at improving school lunches.

A national initiative that helps large school districts procure better food for school meals has asked poultry scientists to provide their insights into the number one source of protein in school lunches – chicken. The scientists will participate in the School Food FOCUS Annual Meeting in Chicago on 25 to 27 March, said The Poultry Science Association (PSA).

FOCUS is a national initiative comprising 29 large school districts of 40,000 children or more that was established to help member school districts provide more healthful, more sustainably produced and regionally sourced food to school lunch programmes. FOCUS is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Recently, the initiative sought editorial input from poultry science experts, including Dr Mary Beck, a professor at Clemson University, regarding the feasibility and wording of its philosophy and goals concerning ideal production practices by suppliers of poultry products to FOCUS-affiliated schools. FOCUS then distributed a statement outlining its position to a number of processors of school food poultry products. Long-term 'gold standard' criteria were outlined and both processed and live production practices were included; according to PSA, both will have an impact on the poultry industry.

FOCUS has invited two poultry scientists – Dr Beck and Greg Engelke, an independent consultant with Cornerstone Resources LLC – to attend the FOCUS annual meeting and participate in a roundtable discussion of poultry production practices.

Dr Beck said: "It's important for the science behind poultry production to be brought to the table so that decisions by school food programmes are sound as well as appealing. It's also important for us as scientists to understand their [FOCUS's] interests and concerns, so that we can assist the industry when questions arise."

Mr. Engelke added: "This will be an educational opportunity for FOCUS and for us; decisions need to be made with the best information available to all concerned, including scientific, aesthetic and economic."

Through their participation in the FOCUS annual meeting, Dr. Beck and Mr. Engelke will provide scientific insight and expertise in a number of areas, including further processed, ready-to-eat products; management practices; and long-term sustainability issues of production.

PSA President, Dr Sally Noll, commented: "Dr. Beck and Mr. Engelke are participating in FOCUS' annual meeting with the goal of providing a balance of rationales for current best practices in the poultry industry on the one hand and to bring back to the Poultry Science Association and the poultry industry a better sense of FOCUS' interests and questions concerning production practices. It is important that we in science and production are engaged in this discussion. In our absence, our industry knowledge is not conveyed to the public and popular, often skewed perceptions about the industry may prevail."

Dorothy Brayley, coordinator of the Real School Food Showcase at the FOCUS Annual Meeting, added: "FOCUS has a long-term perspective on the collaborative development of gold standard chicken production practices that will result in providing children across the country with more healthful and great tasting food on their school lunch plates. FOCUS is asking poultry producers – both regional and national – to work with them toward these ends. It was with this in mind that we invited Dr Beck and Mr Engelke to participate in our annual meeting in Chicago. We look forward to hearing more of their insights."