Current commercial poultry production in the UK faces many challenges which make it difficult to confidently predict the future. Changing legislation, responding largely to welfare pressures, is one such challenge. Additionally, consumer demands are widening. Eggs and meat from stock which is organically produced, or fed on rations containing no genetically modified ingredients, or free range produced, or corn fed are some of the assurances sought by the purchaser and consumer. Although the market place already offers such produce it is difficult to predict the extent to which they will penetrate a market which developed largely through the use of intensive production systems. The alternatives to intensively produced eggs and meat are more expensive to produce and therefore purchase and consequently are susceptible to changes in standards of living and the affluence of the consumer.
This paper briefly describes current commercial practices and some of the specific challenges arising from new legislation.
A description of some specific requirements of birds highlights areas where improvements, in terms of performance, production efficiency, and welfare might be gained. Since the overwhelming majority of eggs and meat is produced in intensive, highly automated systems, there is an obvious need for an integrated approach featuring engineers and the poultry industry to refine and further develop technology which better serves the birds, and ultimately, the consumer.
It is concluded that the UK cannot compete in production costs with some other areas of the world and as retailers increasingly source their goods worldwide, the UK poultry producer may have to resort to the production of products which satisfy niche demands.