Editorial

 

In-line Organic Egg Complexes Unjustly Criticized

Jul 21, 2017

    

A clearly biased article by Peter Whoriskey in the July 13th edition of the Washington Post promoted the views of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Cornucopia Institute with respect to large in-line USDA-Certified Organic egg production complexes operated by the Herbruck family and Cal-Maine Foods among many others.

At issue is the question of outside access. For a number of years, traditional organic egg producers, many of whom provide intermittent and only nominal outside access for their flocks, have experienced competition from more efficient and sustainable in-line complexes which comply with the current rules of the National Organic Program (NOP).

  

It is noted that most operators of in-line complexes also participate with independent farmer-contractors to source production thereby spreading opportunities for families who would otherwise not be able to sell their production due to a lack of packing facilities and marketing capability.

Recognizing that in-line complexes do not have the space to allow extensive outside access for flocks, The National Organic Board cynically devised a new standard which, if implemented, would effectively disqualify large in-line units. This example of “shifting the goal posts” after producers erected facilities to comply with the organic standards and to supply expanding consumer demand, was a blatant attempt to eliminate competition.

In the absence of large producer-packers, the retail price of organic eggs conforming to a mandatory one to two square feet of outside access per hen would soar to above $6 per dozen. This would effectively curtail the volume of available USDA- Certified Organic eggs to the benefit of a narrow segment of the industry.

The Washington Post article included a number of inaccurate statements and was compiled to engender support for the “organic purists”. These producers who considered that the “outside access” issue was a done deal in late 2016 are obviously concerned over the prospects of a rejection of the recommendations of the National Organic Board.

This is based on the advent of a new Administration demonstrating a no-nonsense” approach to the Certified Organic program under the jurisdiction of the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service.

The first canard advanced by the Washington Post is that hens in the aviary houses operated by Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch are stocked at a density of three hens per square foot. This is analogous to stating that the residents of a three-story building simultaneously all occupy the space available on the ground level.

Aviaries allow hens in a flock to ascend through tiers and distribute themselves on perches and platforms to obtain feed and water, to interact socially and lay eggs in partitioned nesting areas. Litter between parallel modules and in sun porches allows for dust bathing and other inherent behaviors.

The development of aviaries with sun porches reflects scientific principles developed over decades in the E.U. involving the contribution and input of ethnologists, behavioral experts and veterinarians. The effective biodensity of hens in an aviary system should be calculated on the basis of cubic volume of the house rather than square feet of floor area. A recent evaluation of an aviary complex showed a density of 0.33 foot2 per hen expressed as floor area but effectively 9 foot3 per hen taking into account the volume of the house accessible to the flock.

Most of the aviary systems intended to produce organic eggs incorporate sun porches on either side of the house allowing access to an area where they can scratch and are exposed to sunlight. Sun porches protect flocks from predators and separate hens from soil which invariably becomes infected with parasites and pathogens, some of which are of public health significance. It is impossible to eliminate Salmonella from soil, a reality apparently sidestepped by the FDA in their regulations covering outside access.

Although the ire of the OCA is directed against the few large in-line complexes it is calculated that many small-scale family units have installed sun porches. The NOP determined in 2003 with respect to a New England producer that sun porches satisfied the requirement for “outside access”. Disqualification of the system in favor of mandatory outside access would effectively eliminate 45 percent of current organic production from a population of 14.5 million hens as predicted by the NOP.

Outside access by flocks is associated with markedly elevated mortality from disease, predators and parasites. A structured scientific evaluation of free-range management by North Carolina State University showed losses of over 30 percent during a laying cycle compared to 5 percent in a control flock housed in a barn.

The emergence of recombinant strains of avian influenza carried by migratory waterfowl has led to outbreaks of the disease commencing in the late winter and the early spring months of 2014 and in successive years in the U.S., in 21 nations of the E.U. in 2015 and 2016 and in Korea and Japan. The immediate response of veterinary authorities to outbreaks of avian influenza worldwide is to mandate confinement of backyard and commercial flocks to barns in order to limit the dissemination of virus from wild carriers to commercial flocks.

Avian Influenza is no longer a sporadic and rare disease, exotic to the U.S. but has become “seasonally endemic” Cases of avian influenza impose immense losses on farmers with infected flocks, on the USDA-APHIS for control and indemnification and on consumers who are obliged to pay more for eggs. Broiler and turkey producers even though they may be unaffected are subject to restrictions and embargos imposed by importing nations.

The current campaign against the large in-line organic egg production complexes must be regarded as an act of desperation to eliminate competition. If successful, the combination of demonization and restrictive rules will markedly reduce the availability of organic eggs, raise the retail price well above $6 per dozen and ultimately generate less-expensive alternatives such as a “GMO-free” category. The short-term beneficiaries of mandating extensive outside access will be the remaining small-scale organic producers selling directly to boutique supermarkets, through farmers’ markets and their farm stalls, all at the expense of consumers.

The Washington Post and Whoriskey, who tilts his lance against efficient Organic egg and milk production and generates undue angst in his articles, should exercise a higher standard of journalism rising above the tabloid genre. It is suggested he ascertain and evaluate facts and present a more balanced view when dealing with a significant subset of producers of USDA Certified Organic eggs. The operators of in-line complexes are humanely providing a wholesome sustainable product at an acceptable price to consumers who are opting to purchase USDA Organic Certified eggs from our Nation’s supermarkets and wholesale club stores.

Egg Industry News

 

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, July 20th 2017.

Jul 21, 2017

    

Hen Numbers Increase Slightly but Prices Up Again After Post July 4th Rise.

OVERVIEW

According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports posted on July 17th the Midwest wholesale prices for Extra Large and Large sizes increased by11 percent from the previous week. The market will be influenced by hen inventory on the supply side of the equation. The progression of prices during 2017 is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.

  

The July 17th USDA Egg Market News Report documented a USDA Combined Region value of $0.73 per dozen delivered to warehouses. This price lags Midwest Weekly values by one week, and is compared to a trailing peak price of $2.20 per dozen in late November 2015.  The USDA Combined range for Large, in the Midwest was $0.68 per dozen. At the high end of the range, the price in the Southeast Region, attained $0.77 per dozen. The current USDA Combined Price was approximately 57 cents per dozen below the three-year average. During the first Quarter of 2016 the average was inflated by the rise in prices attributed to the post-HPAI shortage of shell eggs and breaking stock.

The number of producing hens this week was 0.4 million higher at 304.9 million despite producers removing flocks held over going into the Independence-day weekend. The population is at a high level relative to demand. The total egg-flock comprises 312.4 million including hens in molt and small flocks

Generic shell-egg stock fell by 1.8 percent compared to a fall of 1.1 percent for the previous week confirming fluctuation in the balance between demand and production. Dried-egg inventory amounted to 28.0 million pounds (12,723 metric tons) as of May 31st 2017. This is extremely high, as is the National stock of frozen egg products reported on June 22nd confirming a stock of 39.5 million pounds (17,936 metric tons) on May 31st down from 41.2 million pounds on April 30th.  

INVENTORY

Cold storage stocks in selected regions on July11th 2017 amounted to 3.109 million pounds (1,413 metric tons), 2.1 percent below the stock of 3.176 million pounds during the week of July 1st. 2017.

The latest monthly USDA Cold Storage Report released on June 22nd documented a total stock of 39.459 million pounds (17,936 metric tons) of frozen egg products on May 31st 2017. This value was up 9.7 percent from May 31st 2016. Approximately 88 percent of inventory comprised the categories of “Whole and Mixed” (33.4 percent) and “Unclassified” (55.2 percent).

The national stock of generic shell eggs on July 17th was down by 1.8 percent, compared to a 1.1 percent decrease in inventory during the previous week. Four regions showed decreases in stock levels. The Midwest Region was down 11.6 percent compared to the previous week to 350,300 cases. This region was followed in decreasing order of stock level by the Southeast Region up by 8.1 percent to 267,100 cases; the South Central Region down by 2.4 percent to 226,500 cases; the Southwest Region down by 4.4 percent to 164,700 cases, the Northeast Region down by 1.0 percent to 132,300 and the Northwest Region up by 24.5 percent (a 51.4 percent swing in a week) to 87.600 cases.

The total USDA Six-Area stock of commodity eggs comprised 1,529,100 cases, of which 80.3 percent were shell eggs. The inventory of breaking stock was down 9.5 percent to 300,500 cases after a short-work week. The price of breaking stock this week reflects the availability of eggs from both mature and young flocks in relation to the demand for generic eggs.

Specialty egg inventory was down by 3.2 percent compared to a fall of 5.4 percent for the previous week to 184,100 cases with organic stock comprising 54.6 (was 53.3) percent of inventory. Recent data suggests a fluctuating build in the stock of USDA Certified Organic product. This is attributed to an apparent trend by consumers to purchase less-expensive brown cage-free product over organic eggs when there is a wide differential in price.

During the past week the USDA benchmark retail price of cage-free brown rose markedly by 22.7 percent, or 61 cents per dozen to $3.29 per dozen while USDA Certified Organic fell by 1.5 percent or 6 cents per dozen to $3.82 per dozen, narrowing the price differential to $0.53 per dozen ($1.20 per dozen last week) suggesting larger purchases of the organic category in the coming week at the expense of cage-free eggs.  Large week-to-week percentage fluctuations can be expected in the stock of specialty and organic eggs based on the small base of these categories.

  
 

Utah “Ag-Gag” Law Declared Unconstitutional

Jul 21, 2017

    

According to an article in the July 8th Salt Lake Tribune, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby has ruled unconstitutional the Utah statue which addresses deliberately evasive and incorrect declarations on employment applications, in addition to filming and recording on farms for the express purpose of supporting animal right advocacy groups. His opinion ruled that the law enacted violates the free speech rights of individuals.

The Utah Animal Rights Coalition sued in Federal court to have the 2012 law declared unconstitutional.  The ruling will have implication for the “Ag-Gag” Laws enacted by other states including North Carolina.

  

 

Severe E. coli Outbreak in Utah

Jul 21, 2017

    

A relatively insular religious community on the Utah-Arizona border has been affected by an outbreak of E. coli infection.  Two children have died of hemolytic uremia syndrome and eleven others have been hospitalized. 

The infection is not associated with the water supply from the town of Hildale according the Utah Department of Public Health.  In the absence of an identified vehicle of infection, residents are being warned to cook meat thoroughly, refrigerate food and to only drink pasteurized milk.

The infection involves residents of the contiguous towns of Hildale, UT. and Colorado City, AZ.

  

The E. coli isolated from patients was characterized as a strain producing Shiga toxins. Most of these pathogens were previously associated with ground beef but recently a wide variety of green produce and other foods have served as vehicles of infection.

 

Scandal over Deceptive Labeling of Eggs in New Zealand

Jul 21, 2017

    

Since March of this year, the Serious Fraud Office of the New Zealand Government has investigated deceptive labeling of eggs derived from caged hens sold as cage-free and free-range.  Palace Poultry appears to be the focus of complaints. Accordingly supermarket chains have removed eggs supplied by Palace Poultry from their shelves.

  

Palace Poultry apparently sold eggs to a second producer Zeagold Eggs which markets under the Woodland’s and Farmer Brown brands.  This has created the potential for a more extensive recall and degradation of brand image.  Zeagold appears to be an innocent party having paid the going wholesale rate for cage-free eggs.  The Managing Director of the holding company of Zeagold, Michael Guthrie, is also Chairman of the Egg Producers’ Federation. 

An investigation has shown that the quantity of eggs marketed through a number of supermarket chains including Countdown could not have been supplied from the free-range flocks operated by Palace Poultry on their farm in Araimu.  Palace Poultry apparently was purchasing eggs from Eco Foods produced by caged hens and were then deceptively packaged as “free-range”.

Provided eggs are not washed it is possible to differentiate between product derived from cages or on litter or free-range by microscopic examination of debris on the surface of the shell.  This approach was used in the EU when a similar scandal emerged in 2012, with eggs imported from Spain mislabeled as “cage-free”. In the U.S. where eggs are routinely washed, it is not possible to differentiate between caged product and eggs from alternative systems.

To restore customer confidence, New Zealand producers will in all probability introduce a system of stamping individual eggs using a jet printer. This would follow the system in the E.U. in which housing system, farm of origin and date of production are imprinted on each egg coupled with appropriate trace-back and monitoring.  It would also be possible to audit companies since farms in New Zealand are relatively small in scale given the structure of the industry. The number of eggs sold by a producer or packer could be correlated with the sizes of flocks housed in a specific system with appropriate adjustments for traded eggs.

 

Additional Farms Report H5N8 AI in South Africa

Jul 21, 2017

    

The inevitable spread of H5N8 in South Africa, predicted in a previous post, is now a reality with two layer farms falling to the virus in Gauteng and Mpumalanga Provinces respectively. These cases bring to four the number of identified outbreaks.

It is speculated that given the extensive population of subsistence chickens among concentrations of agricultural workers in remote rural areas, the live bird marketing system and the fact that spent hens are traded and sold in street markets, control of H5N8 avian influenza will be extremely difficult.

  

At best the Government could create a situation similar to Vietnam in the early 1990s when it was possible to restrict H5N1 influenza to back yard and subsistence farms and prevent outbreaks in commercial broiler breeder and grower units applying strict biosecurity.

Given that the index farms in Zimbabwe and South Africa were commercial breeder units with presumably adequate Structural and Operational biosecurity, deficiencies in procedures must be present to allow infection to extend from wild bird carriers or from backyard chickens. The results of surveillance would be instructive in this respect

 

National Organic Program Releases List of Fraudulent Certificates

Jul 21, 2017

    

EGG-CITE has long maintained that the entire USDA-Certified Organic program depends on paperwork without any meaningful laboratory assay to determine freedom from pesticides or non-GMO status of ingredients fed to livestock.

From time to time, the National Organic Program releases a list of fraudulent organic certificates and identifies companies participating in illegal activities and claims as to compliance with U.S. organic standards. It is significant that a large number of companies involved in fraud are based in Asia from which a large proportion of presumably organic products originate.

  

The differential in value between generic and organic products is sufficiently wide as to justify deceptive labeling. If a shipload of corn or soybeans can acquire appropriate documentation between the port of loading and arrival in the U.S. value can be doubled, attracting suppliers willing to generate illegal profits. On the other side of the transaction, there are many buyers of allegedly organic products that are willing to “look the other way” and accept at face value pieces of paper of doubtful provenance signifying organic status.

 

Harris Teeter to Open New Store but to Close Two Others

Jul 21, 2017

    

The Harris Teeter division of the Kroger Company will closes stores in Greensboro, NC. and Cary, NC. over the next two months. 

Kroger opened ten new stores under the Harris-Teeter banner in 2016 and will open six stores in the Carolinas and Maryland during the current year. 

 

The new Brier Creek suburban Harris Teeter location in Raleigh, NC. will comprise a 64,000-foot2 prestige location with hot food, a sit-down wine and beer bar and a drive-through pharmacy.

There has been considerable activity in the North Carolina Triangle Area with Wegmans, and Publix opening new stores and an upgrade of the Food Lion chain owned by Ahold-Delhaize.

 

Australia Develops GM Banana for Uganda

Jul 21, 2017

    

Applying a $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a team led by Prof. James Dale at the Queensland University of Technology has developed a GM banana* with the potential to alleviate malnutrition associated with Vitamin A deficiency.

The cultivar has been transferred to Uganda where it is undergoing field evaluation.

 

In many nations of the World, including East Africa and especially India, Vitamin A deficiency results in blindness and also stunting in children. Unfortunately previous cultivars of rice engineered to express high levels of pro-vitamin A have not been commercialized due to opposition from vested interests. (see previous posting on July 13th 2014 by entering “banana” in the SEARCH block.)

It is hoped that the “do-gooders” of the developed world will not deprive those in need of a valuable food product. In the case of Golden Rice, commercialization has been impeded by restrictive legislation and negative publicity advanced on the basis of universal rejection of GM technology and supported by sophistry and misinformation.

*Paul, J-Y, et al Golden Bananas in the Field: Elevated Fruit Pro-Vitamin A, From the Expression of a Single Banana Transgene. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 15:520-532 (2017)

Prof. James Dale of the Queensland University of Technology, Australia developed the GM Banana

       

Golden Bananas on trial in Uganda

 

 

USDA Projections for 2017 and 2018 Egg Production

Jul 21, 2017

    

The USDA Economic Research Service issued an updated July 18th record of egg production in 2016, an update for 2017 and a forecast for 2017. Values are compared to 2015 which was impacted by the Spring outbreak of HPAI in the upper-Midwest.

 

Parameter

2015 (actual)

2016 (actual)

2017 (forecast)

Difference ‘16-‘17

EGGS

 

 

 

 

Production (m. dozen)

6,938*

7,435

7,642

+1.6%

Consumption (eggs per capita)

         256*

          275

           277

+0.7%

New York price (c/doz.)

         182*

            86

             85

-1.1%

Source: Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook – July 18th 2016

*Impacted by Spring 2015 HPAI outbreaks. Consumption in 2014, 267 eggs per capita

Subscribers to EGG-CITE are referred to the postings depicting weekly prices, volumes and trends and the monthly review of prices and related industry statistics.

 

Moba USA Appoints Northeast Agri Systems as an Agent

Jul 21, 2017

    

In a July 20th release, Moba USA, a subsidiary of Moba, has contracted Northeast Agri Systems, as a new representative for Moba and Diamond farm packers in the Northeast region.

 

Northeast Agri Systems will sell and service the following products:-

  • Mopack 55 – 150 grader installations
  • Diamond 70, 100 and 200 FPX farm packers
  • Moba and Diamond stackers
  • MR 40 skid-building robots

Moba has a global reach with approximately 700 employees serving the egg industry. Company brands include Moba, Diamond and Pelbo offering a broad portfolio of solutions for the industry. Moba is located in Barneveld, the Netherlands, with subsidiaries in England, Germany, the USA, Malaysia, Japan, China and Italy. Moba is represented in more than 60 countries through an extensive network of agents.

 

Status of 2017 Corn and Soybean Crops

Jul 21, 2017

    

The USDA Crop Progress Report released Monday July 17th  recorded progress in corn and soybean progress and condition similar to 2016 as expressed in the table below:-

 

  

                                                                            WEEK ENDING

Crop

July 9th

July 16th

5-Year Average

Corn and Soy Emerged

         100

         100

          100

Corn Silking

           19

           40

            47

Soybeans Blooming

           34

           52

            51

Soybeans Setting Pods

      7   

           16

            13

                  

Crop

V. Poor

Poor

Fair

Good

Excellent

Corn Condition

     3         

   8

 25

  52

     13

Soybean Condition

     3

   8

 28

  51

     10

 

Parameter

v. Short

Short

Adequate

Surplus

Topsoil moisture:  Past Week

    14

   26

53

 7

                              Past Year

8

22

62

 8

Subsoil moisture:  Past Week

    11

   25

58

 6

                              Past Year

7

21

66

 6

 

 

South East Egg Industry Conference

Jul 21, 2017

    

Henning Companies was a sponsor for the SE Egg Industry Regional Conference at Palm Coast, FL on June 14-16.

Educational sessions were held covering, management, bird health, transition from cage to cage-free production, impact of alternative housing on protein and energy consumption, and managing profitability with high feed cost.

 

Pictured Above (L-R): Curt Schmidt (Hy-Line North America), Lisa Henning-Beohm (Henning Companies)
Trey Braswell (Braswell Family Farms), Brent Booker (Country Charm Eggs) and
Pete Block (Hy-Line North America) during the awards banquet.

 

Egg price at Aldi store in the St. Louis MO. Area

Jul 21, 2017

The price says it all!

 

Chipotle Suffers From Double Blow of Norovirus and Mice

Jul 20, 2017

    

Just when analysts were expressing cautious optimism over the recovery of Chipotle Mexican Grill after the foodborne infection fiascos of 2015, events stoked by negative publicity are degrading the healthful image embodied in the brand.

  

The outbreak of confirmed norovirus infection attributed to a Sterling, VA. store has apparently claimed 130 presumptive reported cases. This suggests contamination of the implicated store over a multi-day period due either to defective cleaning and decontamination at close of operations or extended shedding of virus by one or more employees.

Chipotle stock is displaying the market equivalent of anaphylaxis, with a 2.2 percent drop from the opening on Friday 21st to $348.32 at noon. The 52-week range has been $345.75 to $499.00, far below the $700 to $750 trading range before the advent of the series of 2015 foodborne disease episodes.

To add to Chipotle image problems diners at a West End, Dallas TX. location posted a video of three apparently non-blind mice with intact tails suggesting that the nursery-rhyme “Farmer’s Wife” is not employed by Chipotle. 

Cynically the rodents that “dropped from the ceiling” may have been over-optimistic financial analysts. An image of investor Bill Ackman dining in a New York Chipotle restaurant is not substantially encouraging to market capitalization. Hopefully his taste in food is better than his taste in stocks given the recent record of his fund. On the other hand he may be volunteering as a “lab rat” to confirm that Chipotle food is wholesome.

Bill Ackman tweets:
Eating our own cooking @ ChipotleTweets
and making my own mix at savorwavs.com"

 

 

 

Australian Supermarkets Compete with Eggs as Loss Leaders

Jul 20, 2017

    

Major Australian supermarkets including Coles, Woolworth’s and Aldi have all reduced the price of their house-brand, free-range eggs by as much as 30 percent. It is estimated that this has resulted in complaints from the industry implying that “loss leader” pricing on eggs could result in deceptive practices.

At the core of the issue is the definition of “free-range” which can mean stocking densities of 3,750 hens per acre as per the CSIRO guideline or 25,000 hens per acre as adopted by some producers. CHOICE, an advocacy group lists on their website the 250 brands complying with the CSIRO low density “free range” standard.

  

Although supermarkets have slashed prices to consumers, chains such as Aldi and Woolworth’s have apparently not reduced unit payment to packers and producers.

The messages for the U.S. from the present situation in Australia are:-

  • There must be a clear definition of a product with appropriate labelling and 3rd-party monitoring of production systems, flock sizes and documentation.
  • Specialty eggs labelled as “free-range”, “from pastured flocks” and “cage-free” are non-competitive against less expensive conventional eggs from cages on the same store shelf. Everyone “wants” eggs from non-caged flocks but only a minority of consumers are actually willing to pay the difference given alternatives, despite what they may submit in surveys.
  • Food retailers will try to optimize sales per unit of shelf space and maximize overall basket prices. If low-priced eggs from cages contribute to this objective, long-term commitments to “cage-free” adopted in haste and under coercion, may be reversed, diluted or extended.

 

CME Prices

Jul 19, 2017

    

On Friday July 14th at close of trading on the CME, the following rounded quotations for corn, soybeans and soybean meal were recorded, together with the bracketed value for the previous week. Values were lower, reversing the advances of the previous week.

This is attributed to the release of the WASDE Report #557 on July 12th detailing increased ending stocks for corn (2,325 million bushels) but despite a decline in soybeans (460 million bushels).

  

According to the July WASDE release, a 90.9 million acres were planted to corn, three percent lower than the previous season with a predicted harvest of 14.3 billion bushels. Farmers planted 88.7 acres to soybeans, up seven percent above 2016, with a crop of 4.3 billion bushels anticipated.

 

COMMODITY

 

Corn (cents per bushel)

July ’17   369  (382)    

Sept. ’17  377   (391)  

Soybeans (cents per bushel)

July ’17   987  (992)    

Sept. ’17  994   (1,003)  

Soybean meal ($per ton)

July ’17   322  (327)

Sept’17    325   (331) 

 

 

Changes in the price of soybeans and soybean meal this week were:-

  • Corn:                     July quotation down by 13 cents.                    (-3.4 percent)
  • Soybeans:            July quotation down by 5 cents                       (-0.5 percent)
  • Soybean Meal:   July quotation down by $5/ton                        (-1.5 percent)                                  

 

For each 10 cent per bushel change in corn :-

  • The cost of egg production would change by 0.45 cent per dozen
  • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

 

For each $10 per ton change in the price of soybean meal:-

  • The cost of egg production would change by 0.40 cent per dozen
  • The cost of broiler production would change by 0.25 cent per pound live weight

See posting on the June edition of CHICK-CITE (enter WASD in SEARCH block) summarizing the July 12th USDA-WASDE Report #567, for a review of price projections and quantities of commodities produced during the 2016-17 season.

Shane Commentary

 

Dutch Study Discloses Differences Attributed to Beak Treatment

Jul 21, 2017

    

EGG-CITE is indebted to Dr. Eric Gingerich who circulated a report entitled “Debeaking on laying hen performance”. Our U.S. industry abandoned the term “debeaking” over two decades ago.

We distinguish between beak treatment which involves infared application to the tip of the beak at a hatchery using a Nova-Tech installation or beak trimming which is effected by a hot blade instrument at 7 to 10 days after hatch.

  

 The study was conducted at the Schothorst Feed Research Center operated cooperatively by seven Dutch feed suppliers. The objective was to determine the effect of “debeaking” on performance parameters. The major defect in the report is that the author Dr. Laura Star did not specify the method of beak modification applied..  Given the absence of clarification, it is not possible to ascribe apparent diffences observed to a specific procedure. 

The motivtion for the study relates to the fact that in Holland, all forms of beak treatment or trimming will be banned after 2018 following the practice in Germany effective 2017.

The study was conducted in 36 experimental aviary pens holding 330 white-feathered pullets placed at 17 weeks of age.

The major differences observed through 67 weeks were:-

  • Feed intake was higher in the treatments with entire beaks.  The deviation between the two treatments commenced at 37 weeks of age and the difference in feed intake from 120 grams to 140 grams per hen per day (26.4 to 30.8 lbs per100 hens per day) persisted until depletion at 67 weeks.  Feed intake in the treatment subjected to some form of beak treatment remained essentially constant at 120 grams per hen per day consistent with breed standard. 
  • Egg mass was higher for the treatment with entire beaks averaging 0.8 percent greater than the treated group.  Feed conversion (presumably mass of feed consumed divided by mass of eggs produced) diverged from 27 weeks of age onwards with a numerically higher feed conversion ratio in the treatment with entire beaks.  At 67 weeks of age, feed conversion approached 2.40 for the non-beak treated hens compared to 2.05 for the hens subjected to some form of beak treatment.  This group conformed to breed standard. 
  • Mortality was higher in the non-beak treated hens (4.9 percent) compared to hens subjected to some form of beak treatment which showed a 3 percent mortality from 17 to 68 weeks of age.  The author noted that mortality was not attributed to cannibalism.
  • A major difference between the two treatments related to feather score with a value of zero assigned to unaffected plumage up to a value of 4 in hens without feather cover.  At 64 weeks of age feather score in the non-debeaked hens was 3.2 compared to 2.0 for the hens subjected to some form of beak treatment. 
  • The inferior feed conversion ratio was attributed to increased feed intake which was influenced by lack of feather cover.  There was no explanation of why hens with entire beaks yielded higher feather-damage scores. 
  • The report on the study did not specify total eggs produced nor was an economic evaluation provided.

Results of the study will probably be used to justify a delay in implementing the proposed ban on beak treatment in Holland as in the U.K. This was the most probable objective of the exercise although data whether valid or otherwise will not influence legislators in the Dutch Parliament who in general are unsympathetic to intensive livestock production and especially eggs. This is an unfortunate result of urbanization of voters who are indifferent to the importance of Holland as a producer and exporter of table eggs, egg liquids, day-old chicks and breeding stock.

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Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
Contact     C. V.

Industry Prices: Fri Jul 21
 Corn3.94 $/bu
 Soybeans10.22 $/bu
 Soybean Meal336.80 $/ton
 Eggs, Producer64  ¢/doz
 Eggs, Warehouse 74-77  ¢/doz