965 views update:Feb 5, 2007

Demise of live bird marketing

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Government officials in Asia have been forced to review the desirability of maintaining live bird markets in urban centers. Concern over the dissemination of avian influenza and implications for human health have in all probability accelerated the move towards purchase of processed poultry in whole bird and portioned forms.  By Simon Shane

Government officials in Asia have been forced to review the desirability of maintaining live bird markets in urban centers. Concern over the dissemination of avian influenza (bird flu) and implications for human health have in all probability accelerated the move towards purchase of processed poultry in whole bird and portioned forms .

 

Municipal authorities in Taipei have introduced legislation which will eliminate live bird markets in 2008 following a similar initiative in Singapore. It is anticipated that Hong Kong will follow after an extensive program of attempting to "sanitize" live bird markets, since the emergence of H5N1 infection in 1997.

 

The role of live bird markets in perpetuating and disseminating low pathogenicity avian influenza has been recognized in the USA where approximately 500,000 broilers, along with waterfowl and other avian species are sold for human consumption each week in urban centers of east and west coast cities. The USDA has introduced a program which will indemnify States in the event of outbreaks of low pathogenicity avian influenza. This is contingent on approved programs to suppress influenza through the chain of production from farms through to retail outlets. Currently minimal standards of sanitation in retail outlets are required including depopulation at weekly intervals and frequent surveillance which confirms the presence of influenza virus indicating infection in consignments of birds.

 

In the USA and Canada, demand for live birds by Hispanic and Asian communities maintains the trade. In Asia and Africa, marketing of live birds is deeply ingrained. This is based on the acceptance that only a live bird can be fresh. Hallal slaughter is assured in countries with this requirement although it is noted that Saudi Arabia is now promoting the consumption of processed domestic broilers and that Jordan has banned live markets in urban centers.

 

Elimination of live bird markets will represent a disruption to the traditional system of production and distribution involving farmers and a network of dealers and retailers. This will hasten the move towards integration either in the form of cooperatives or commercial enterprises involving feed mills, hatcheries and processing plants. This will ultimately benefit both producers and consumers. Foodborne diseases including salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis will be reduced through hygienic processing. The prevalence of avian infections including Newcastle disease, very virulent IBD, avian influenza, and ILT will be reduced as the involvement of itinerant dealers falls away and flocks are operated on an all-in-all-out, single-age placement program. Integration, whether vertical or horizontal, will allow the application of more advanced technology with regard to biosecurity and disease prevention and will lead to the elimination of undesirable practices such as indiscriminant use of antibiotics and the marketing of birds which would not generally pass antimortem or on-line inspection.

 

Although it is acknowledged that rural residents will continue to maintain subsistence poultry and operate local and regional markets, consumers in the large urban centers in Asian and African countries will be protected from foodborne infection and will be able to purchase wholesome processed poultry at a lower cost than at present. The demise of the live bird marketing system is one of the few benefits arising from the current panornitic of avian influenza .


By: Simon Shane

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