21 November 2019
Agroforestry event in Melton Mowbray

A Win Win for Farm productivity and the Environment

3 December 2019
iSAGE training course and workshop

Innovations to improve sustainability in the sheep and goat sector

4 November 2019
Calling all UK Sheep farmers!

Survey on breed distribution and management

31 October 2019
Proceedings of the European Conference on Crop Diversification

Abstracts, presentations and workshop reports now online

21 March 2019
In adversity, what are farmers doing to be more resilient?

Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming

EU Organic Regulation changes: implications for poultry producers

The development of EU organic poultry regulations has required much time and discussion, but they are still not finalized. What are the latest signals from Brussels and how will they affec producers?
Becky Nelder (ORC): Chair

Session Summary

Changes to EU regulations for poultry are on the horizon, although yet to be finalised. This session explored how these changes might impact (positively and negatively) the organic poultry producer.

Key issues discussed included:

  • The move to 100% organic feed - was seen as possible but presented technical challenges, particularly with sourcing it locally
  • The shift from limits by maximum birds per house to flock size limits
  • Defining outdoor stocking rates using maximum N loads
  • Maximum bird densities or maximum bird flock sizes
  • The use of organic chicks

Key conclusions

The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:

  • There are technical challenges regarding providing local and 100% organic feed at an affordable price.
  • The value of the range is obviously important but how can this be integrated into and accounted for in the poultry ration? And how do we fill the hungry gap?
  • We need an outcome-based  approach to regulations to fit better with organic principles
  • The organic principles are in general supported in the suggested changes to regulations but sometimes these are difficult to implement e.g. there are technical and economic difficulties in using organic chicks

Speaker presentations and abstracts

Chris Atkinson (Soil Association): EU Regulation changes – the process and IFOAM position (130KB)

The EU Regulations sets out a number of objectives for organic production including meeting consumer expectations, excellent environmental performance and high animal welfare. The detailed production rules are regularly reviewed to ensure that on farm practice comes as close as possible to fulfilling these goals. For organic pig and poultry production this means that the emphasis remains on the move to 100% organic feed and working towards the use of organic pullets. Previous attempts at making progress in these areas have not succeeded. In this presentation I will give an update on these issues first from the perspective of the European organic movement as represented by the IFOAM EU Group, and second from the point of view of the organic certification bodies who are responsible for implementing the transitional rules.

Nic Lampkin (ORC): The EU expert group’s report and recommendations on poultry standards (130KB)

In 2010, the EU Commission set up an expert group to advise it on technical issues relating to organic production. This group has been reviewing a range of issues making recommendations which in some cases have resulted in changes to the EU organic regulations. In 2012, the group examined a range of issues relating to organic poultry production, in particular with respect to housing, range management and stocking densities. The report was published at the end of 2012 and highlights the need for improvements in range management to ensure both a proportion of the diet coming from the range and appropriate safeguards, as well as rationalisation of stocking density rules across the different poultry types. It was expected that the report would be considered for changes to the poultry regulations in 2013, but the latest indications are that any changes will now be delayed until there is a full-scale revision of the regulations following reviews and consultations in progress.

Richard Kempsey (Stonegate): A producer perspective on the effects of possible changes

Richard will discuss possible changes based on his experience at Stonegate. Stonegate pack and distribute eggs from some 120 farmers into Waitrose. The farmers are all members of the Guild of Columbian Blacktail producers with free range and organic flocks stocked with the robust Columbian Blacktail bird. Currently some 26 farms from this group farm to Soil Association standards.

The Waitrose Duchy organic flocks are housed in small mobile sheds and have wind/solar power generation. All the pullet flocks for these houses are reared to Soil Association standards and have first access to the range from between 8 and 10 weeks dependent on the seasonal conditions on the range. Waitrose are the only high street retailer to stock a Soil association egg brand and they have always overtraded in organic egg against their competitors in the high street.