One hen’s coop is another hen’s graveyard

The battle of biosecurity vs animal welfare

By Linda Jackson on 26 January 2017

An interesting week for our feathered friends – across the world several interesting articles were published on the suitability of their living accommodations. These articles show the intersection of management system requirements and the need for a holistic approach to policies and risk management.

Battle of biosecurity vs animal welfare

Meet Yolanda Güse, a Master’s student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, who lobbied support against the burger and fast food chain McDonald’s South Africa’s cruelty in using battery caged chickens to produce the eggs used in their Breakfast McMuffin meals. And she won. (For those of us in the trade, we know McDonald’s don’t have any chickens…but their suppliers do).

Her petition of 18000 signatures resulted in Güse and her team receiving news last Novmber that McDonald’s SA had agreed to stop the harvesting of caged eggs and committed itself, over time, to using 100% caged free eggs. It will start phasing in caged-free eggs at all its restaurants this year and has undertaken to complete the process by 2025. This is because the policy will mean a complete restructuring of the current egg-farming industry.

But then how will they deal with this challenge...

The Guardian is reporting on the outbreak of avian flu in Europe notably that all bird keepers, from poultry farmers to families with a few chickens, have been ordered to house their animals for a month to protect the UK from a virulent outbreak of avian flu on mainland Europe.

The order, which was texted to poultry farmers on Tuesday, comes after a type of highly pathogenic avian flu, H5N8, was found in dead wild birds and some farm birds across Europe. Similar restrictions have been imposed in France after the detection of bird flu in farms in the south-west of the country and in wild ducks in the north.

The article stresses that on the basis of current scientific evidence the risk of getting bird flu through the food chain is very low. Some strains of avian influenza can pass to humans, but this is very rare. It usually requires close contact between the human and infected live birds. Properly cooked chicken and turkey and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat according to the Food Safety Agency, UK.

But that’s so far away?

And then a report published this week stated, “An outbreak of bird flu has been reported in Uganda, where hundreds of wild birds were found dead on the shores of Lake Victoria. Ugandan authorities have not confirmed which strain of the avian flu caused the birds’ death. But the country along with neighbouring Kenya have put their countries on high health alert.”

So, I have to ask as a consumer - which eggs do you prefer now? What would your breakfast taste like if there were no eggs at all? As a grower – are there other risks the consumer does not appreciate about the production of their breakfast? While I am not suggesting that animal welfare if not an important issue, the need to a balance of risks is paramount.


Would love to hear your comments