Then we take Berlin

October 11, 2021

On September 10, 2021, the European Poultry Meat Sector (AVEC) met in the city of Berlin to focus on its future sustainability goals in the context of the Green Deal and EU Farm to fork strategy. AVEC’s President, Paul Lopez, presented the “Berlin Declaration” to commit to a “Sustainability Charter” in 2022.

From an article in Poultry World: On September 10, 2021, one hundred and fifty representatives from the European Poultry Meat Sector (AVEC) met in the city of Berlin for the 63rd AVEC General Assembly. The Assembly focused on sustainability of the sector, in the context of the Green Deal and EU Farm to fork strategy. AVEC’s President, Paul Lopez, presented the “Berlin Declaration” in which the European poultry meat sector commits to develop a “Sustainability Charter” to be published at the start of 2022.

"Through this commitment, AVEC intends to demonstrate that European Poultry Meat is part of the solution in the fight against climate change by developing concrete solutions to improve the sustainability of the sector. The sector aims at finding a balance between the 3 pillars – Environment, Social and Economy to establish true sustainability."

But... the European poultry meat sector also made clear that the level of commitment of the EU poultry meat sector was highly dependable on the willingness and capacity of the EU Commission to defend the sector from unfair competition from third countries. For good reason, according the Assembly: The efforts implemented in the EU poultry meat sector will raise the production costs for sure. Without a clear policy, the sector fears counter effects of larger imports of poultry meat from third countries.

The AVEC statement was clear: "We produce meat in a very climate smart way in Europe – so importing more meat from third countries will in the end lead to higher GHG emissions globally.”

That's the thing with leading by example, especially when your ambition is to be the best pupil in class. The Green Deal/Farm to Fork combined strategy emerges some nervousness in the agriculture and retail sectors. The reason is simple: We are all supporters for a more sustainable world until we come at the cash register in the supermarket. Then it's all me, me, me. And me, me, me does not want to pay extra. We tend to be completely disconnected from the primary food producer once we push our shopping trolley to the exit. We should be better informed by the retailer, you say? Sure, then ask for it. The Better Life initiative in the Netherlands did just that.

How can farmers remain profitable with on one hand, a constant pressure on primary production prices, and on the other, mandatory investments to meet Europe's SDGs in the upcoming decades?

Living in survival mode today is clearly not the best motivator to think about 2050. Charter? Leave me alone, I have invoices to pay!

From that point of view, it seems only logic that protective measures are asked to the EU Commission. Farmers operate in the here and now, fighting endless battles with bad weather conditions, livestock and crop diseases, toxic herbes, restrictive legislation and rising feed and seed prices. Now, don't get me wrong, farming cannot return to the practices applied in the 80's and 90's where nothing was allowed but anything was possible. We can no longer afford intensified farming methods where the future collateral damage is higher than the product price today. I find it remarkable that sectors which support food systems need charters to come to that conclusion.

Then again, it's still common practice to keep chickens in cages in some parts of Europe. The total ban of those practices is still way ahead in the future. Work in progress. Prolucent is proud to have a few Dutch 3-star "Better Life" layer clients who apply our innovative lighting. For this matter, consumers and retailers in the Netherlands joined forces to support poultry farmers in their search for more welfare in poultry.

In the end, someone needs to be motivated to pay a slightly higher price for fresh eggs. If that responsible consumer group does not grow quickly enough, Better Life stars will drop dead from the sky very soon. No charter will help us there.

So, I'm not sure we'll see chickens dancing in the streets of Berlin. But for now, any Charter facilitating sustainability and/or welfare in the poultry sector should be welcomed and supported.

Peter Rakers


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