The top three poultry industry drivers
Sustainability is a concept that’s front and centre in many sectors today, and poultry is no different. Indeed, it’s part of one of the three top poultry industry drivers that Cargill has identified – guiding principles on which to base sound decisions now and in the future.
Part of the path to achieving sustainability for poultry producers, explains Cargill’s Mario Penz, is the increasing use of “precision nutrition.” Penz works as the company’s strategic accounts technology director for its global animal nutrition business, and is also a Cargill Corporate Fellow. He has published hundreds of research papers, regularly presents at conferences and serves in leadership roles at several poultry organizations.
How can we make the diet closer to the needs of the bird, Penz asks, so that similar or better production results are achieved at a similar or lower cost, at the same time we minimize pollution from elements like excess nitrogen and phosphorus?
“When you don’t have thorough knowledge of the ingredients and a systematic process of analysing them, it’s tough to answer this question,” he notes. “Gathering data and analyzing it is also important because we’ve gone as an industry to focussing on an adequate diet for the animal at the lowest cost, to also having a focus on protecting the environment. We’ve moved from being very pragmatic with regards to the cost of the feed formulation to now also addressing society’s concerns.”
Part of precision nutrition is solid feed analysis. Cargill researchers and other researchers have found that feed components like protein, amino acids, fats, fatty acids, macro- and micro-minerals can differ significantly from place to place, which points to compositional analysis of crops as an important part of ‘feed precision’ and reaching maximal sustainability.
The same variety of soybeans for example, notes Penz, can differ quite a bit in composition depending on where it’s grown.
Precision nutrition also takes age of the bird into account. “We determined that it’s best to use three to four calorie levels for each ingredient for different ages of birds,” Penz explains.
“The different stages in an animal’s life are important to factor in. Older birds in general are okay with feed that’s lower in digestibility, and younger birds need diets with more digestibility.”
Digestibility and other factors are important to the health of the digestive tract, which has a direct impact on an animal’s immune system.
Cargill has developed the “Cargill Nutrition System” (CNS), a world-class nutrition system that matches nutrient supply with nutrient demand and utilizes different delivery methods for the various customer segments Cargill serves.
These methods can be through products (complete feed, premix, or additives), software, or even knowledge sharing. Penz says worldwide nutrient data and animal metabolism and requirement research from Cargill’s 15 global innovation centres and published data are updated on a continuous basis to make this the most robust and up-to-date nutrition system in the industry.
“Our team all over the world is ready to spread what we have developed,” he explains. “The first wave of introduction was last year and it enables us to deliver nutrition that ensures animals perform more profitably, more efficiently and more sustainably. For instance, we have found that with the CNS, we can provide similar or better production results at a lower cost, at the same time we can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus supplementation, with a consequent excretion reduction anywhere from 10 to 40 per cent.”
One of the other top two poultry industry drivers is an increasing world demand for high-quality protein, and Penz notes that demand for poultry leads the way. “From 2010 to 2020, chicken production will grow by 28 percent and world population will be almost 8 billion people,” he says, citing sources such as U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s documents ‘Agricultural Outlook 2010-2019’ and ‘World Agriculture: Towards 2030 – 2050.’ “We will need to produce 124 million tons of chicken to meet this growing demand.”
Penz adds, “As I’m sure many Canadian Poultry readers are aware, there is a strong correlation between income and protein consumption, and as incomes go up around the world and the middle class grows, people can afford for more poultry and other meats. Chickens are very efficient at converting feed to protein, and are more economical to raise compared to other animals like pork and beef.”
Penz notes that eggs and milk are also high-quality protein sources, being a package of nutrients that solely nourish an animal at the start of life. “However, from a land use perspective – looking at how much animal protein can be produced per square unit of area – poultry meat is the most efficient and economical,” he explains.
Poultry production is also going to become more and more important, says Penz, because there are no restrictions on eating chicken or eggs in any religion or region of the world. He also notes that poultry production in a given country (where the feed is also produced) gives that country a significant amount of food security – specifically protein security.
He foresees that the rural areas in many regions will be producing more and more chicken as time goes on, and animal producers already producing chicken will progress faster than those in other types of animal production.
“Cargill is looking at poultry production in a very serious way,” Penz notes. “But while poultry is an important segment of our business, we continue to focus on helping producers grow their businesses in the swine, beef and dairy cow, and aquaculture sectors.”
Supply chain transparency
Supply chain transparency is the third global industry driver that Cargill identifies, one that is paramount to building consumer trust. Whether it’s GMO-free options, organic or “natural” products, pointing out food origins and animal welfare, consumers want information they can trust.
“The industry must assure people that our products that come to the grocery store are safe – we need to give that comfort,” Penz observes. “Our job as a nutrition supplier is to provide assurance to our customers that what we say is in our products is actually there.”
Penz points to hormones in chicken as an example where transparency is very important. “It’s a fallacy that hormones are used in chicken production, but it’s been in the media a lot,” he notes. “There is no positive impact to including added hormones in chicken production. However, there is a perception that the industry used to use hormones and now does not, and this perception needs to be addressed. Hormones were never used in chickens based on different reasons and the most significant are the complexity of the hormone application and more importantly, there is no response on poultry production improvement with hormones.”
When asked the degree of transparency that people will want – just how much information they wish to have about animal welfare specifics for example – Penz responds that society will lead the way. “People have anthropomorphic views towards other species and think that the conditions that animals might live in would not be something they would choose,” he observes, “but we can gain a lot of insight from the fact that a happy chicken is a productive chicken. If animals are under stress, they will not gain weight and or produce as many eggs. So we need to do a better job as an industry to explain this to people and having more people visiting farms to understand animal agriculture.”