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Poultry News Round-Up

5 January 2012, at 11:36pm

ANALYSIS - In a rare move, the EU has at the last minute extended derogation, allowing up to five per cent of non-organic ingredients in organic poultry feeds for a further three years, citing issues over animal welfare as the reason for the postponement. In the US, a difference of opinion has emerged between farming organisations over the regulation of cage space for laying hens, and several Australian states are on alert over Murray Valley encephalitis, a rare but potentially fatal human disease caused by a virus whose presence has been confirmed in more than one flock of sentinel chickens.

In what is thought to be a unique case, the EU has decided to extend the derogation allowing five per cent non-organic feed ingredients in organic diets for poultry and pigs.

Until the end of last year, producers were able to feed five per cent of non-organic feed to organic pigs and poultry.

However, on 1 January 2012, European legislation was set to come into play which would have meant that all organic poultry and pig producers would have to have fed 100 per cent organic feed.

Instead, the European Commission has said that it will extend the derogation after the industry expressed concerns for animal welfare.

Ruth Mason, Food Chain Advisor at the National Farmers' Union (NFU) in England, said that there is not sufficient quantity or quality organic feed to allow producers to feed a 100 per cent organic diet.

Feeding animals lower quality diets could lead to stress on nutritional requirements which would significantly impact animal welfare, as well as potentially damage the organic brand.

Legislation to extend the derogation has not yet been passed; it is expected to be completed at the end of February/early March 2012 and will be applied retrospectively.

It is likely the extension will be until the end of 2014, giving producers another three years until 100 per cent organic diets are mandatory.

In the US, controversy is brewing over the size of laying hen cages. Several farm organisations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, have signed a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee calling for the rejection of additional, costly and unnecessary animal rights mandates proposed by the Humane Society of the United States.

In Australia, several states are on alert for Murray Valley encephalitis, following the finding of the infection in sentinel flocks of chickens in the last few days. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can infect several animal species, including humans, in which a small proportion of cases may have life-threatening symptoms.

WHO reports that there have been 58 cases of H5N1 flu in humans in 2011 (to 21 December), 31 of whom have died. Most of the victims have been in Egypt (37 cases; 14 deaths) but there were also 11 cases in Indonesia, eight in Cambodia and two in Bangladesh. The annual totals are higher than for 2010 but they are well below the peak in 2006. These latest figures bring the total affected by H5N1 flu since 2003 to 574 human cases, of whom 337 have died.