I remember when I was a child, the egg was a delicious extra in the menu. At the end of the 60’s the increasing of the population, the urban concentration, the improvement of the rents, supposed a high increase in the feed demand that was covered with intensive production methods. The aviculture, both for meat and for layers, was the first sector using genetics, nutrition, management and development of avian health to increase its production.
Between 1960 and 1985, Spain was placed as one of the firsts places in the World poultry production, the value of it was more than 3.5 % of the final agricultural production. However, today, survival of the laying aviculture is in danger. The farmers have to condition their farms to the dispositions of the Directive 1999/74/ CE of the European Union Council, and all points that this productive sector will suffer an important actives cuts from 2012.
It is being evaluated that from 1st January 2012, the current figures of the european bird production can not be maintained, and in fact some surveys made in some countries around us, like United Kingdom, reveal that 2012 will be a year marked by egg shortage. The main reason is that most of small producers will not be able to continue their activity because they will no capable to face the high expenses to adapt their exploitations to the current laws.
It is also necessary to think about the aging of the sector, and although it is imposible to offer an exact data, it is simple to show verified data about the number of exploitations, their type, the activity level, no data about the profile of producers can be found. The age and doubts about continuity of the producers for generational reasons can be also decisive facts for the inmediat future of the sector.
From 1st January 2003, the conditioned birdcages (also called “enriched”) had a minimum height of 40 cm in 65 % of its surface, maximum pending of 14 % , a minimum of 10 cm for feeder , a device for nail filing and a minimum guaranteed space for each hen of 550 cm2.
But from 1st January 20101, the new installed bird cage will be of 550 cm2 per animal, egg nest and bed, perches, minimum feeder space fo 12 cm and distance from the last file to the floor of 35 cm. Also corridors must have minimum width of 1 metre.
It is thought that enriched jais improve the wellness grade of the hens, beacuse they have more place and perches, nests and sand bathes will appear, avoiding the animals to run some of their natural behaviour patterns. However, it has been proved that the birds management comes more difficult, including sanitary controls, dirty eggs, more broken eggs and more cage dirt. Referring to the physical status of birds, they lose less plumage, a slight increase of bones resistance, less deformed or broken nails, less hyperqueratosis and less dorsal wounds. Although it must also be said that appeared more sternum and legs lesions because of the use of perches. Mortality rates seems to be slightly higher and egg production is similar by increasing feed consumption and conversion index.
The production costs will increase 20 to 30 %, because the number of hens per squared meter will decrease and this is not compensated with an increase of the laying. Also feed consumption will be increased and maintenance of the cages are also increased to achieve correct levels of hygiene.
This has a double consequence: the European poultry man will be less competitive in front of third countries producers that will be able to sell their products also here but without respecting the European production system, and the price of the autochthonous product in the supermarket will be doubled. In a place were the expense in the shopping is highly controlled, because is one of the most nourished chapter of the shopping cart, all goes to the sense that the consumer will choose this with the smallest price.
Poland has asked a delay in the application of the Directive for not refusing to supply its market, due to the impossibility to update the facilities because its market, difficultly will accept an increase on the price of the basic products of the shopping cart. However, the European Council has not accepted. Some more advanced parts in the adaptation to the Directive, pretend, with the excuse that the total change will not come until 2012, that a number 4 will distinguish the eggs produced in conditioned cage from the ones produced in conventional cages. Otherwise the Commission and some countries are not agree with this.
The dilemma is to know if supermarkets will accept in 2013 in their linears, the eggs not produced in enriched birdcages (class 3) or if the few producers adapted to these rules and with high costs will allow the delay.
The European sector will not have the facilities adapted in 2012, mainly because of funding. Countries as England, Germany or Holland with markets of higher purchasing power and with significant increase in the sales of country chicken, some farmers have already substitute the birdcages for other breeding systems.
The aviculture that will survive to 2013 is a doubt, due to amounts of normatives from de administration, that don’t consider the increasing prices for the final consumer.
Academic “Catalonia Veterinary Sciences Journal”