It has frequently been expressed that growing chickens is like practicing the art of a top sport. With a little bit of imagination, this comparison is true. Again and again we expect top performance of every single bird. To allow them to do so we provide them with the best available and affordable food. In a top sport, food plays an increasingly important role and fortunately poultry meat is often the first choice of protein.
Some time ago, sportsmen recognised the role that food played to stimulate performance. This resulted in the introduction of special foods, including performance enhancers. Initially the poultry industry followed a similar path but quickly discovered that the use of hormones was very inefficient and did not result in profitable advantages. Nevertheless, worldwide there are still many people who believe that chickens are fed hormones to please the grower’s wallet.
According to facts, this is a myth. Different, however, are some other, especially antibiotic, performance enhancers. Several of these drugs have shown good results without threatening animal or consumer health. Nevertheless, antibiotics remain subject for scaring articles in newspapers and reports on radio and television. The US Animal Agriculture Alliance information centre often opposes against biased and unfounded publications. In a recent press release they commented on an article released by the highly reputed Associated Press as being extremely biased and based on poor research. The AAA says that the AP article dangerously blurs the line between opinion and fact.
Since the subject of antibiotics is a rather complicated and confusing one, it allows many people to continuously confront the livestock industry with allegations in order to put them in a negative spotlight. Can we not see similarities with the use of drugs in top sport? The sport world responded and came up with an international list of products that should not be used, and regular control by independent investigators provides a certain fair-play feeling. This raises the question whether we need such a body in the agri-food business as well, or are the local control institutions solid enough to take care of this?
Although there are different dynamics, we do have to realise that in top sport and food production it is all about trust and guaranteeing fair play to avoid putting players at risk. The poultry industry has to follow the rules to secure the health of consumers. Today, this does not stop by believing that it is producing safe food but by proving it. Gaining consumer’s trust and the provision of reliable product information will be needed.