chicken in the tub

A question to EFSA: when will spa treatments for chickens be available?

Who is EFSA?

“It is a European Union agency established in 2002 to serve as an impartial source of scientific advice for risk managers and to carry out communication activities on risks associated with the food chain. It works with stakeholders to promote consistency in EU scientific advice. It provides the scientific basis for legislation and regulations to protect European consumers from food-related risks, from farm to fork’.

EFSA has recently published two extensive documents (link to broilers on farm – link to laying hens on farm) commissioned by the EU concerning the management of poultry farms and the animals kept there. In the specific case broilers and laying hens. An understandable request on the part of the EU (which is a place of political representation) given the mood circulating around this area where every bell sounds a different note.

EFSA’s answers are solutions that generate problems

We at M.A.C. have read these documents and, while respecting the work of the people who generated them, we feel it is necessary to submit to the public some reflections on the scientific deductions contained in what could even become regulations to be applied at European level. M.A.C.’s function is in fact that of a third-party observer who by vocation tries to make issues that would otherwise remain the terrain of instrumentalisation and gut evaluations comprehensible to all.

Before reflections, two preliminary questions are necessary:

  • Have EFSA and its members (academically qualified people) ever tried to build, manage and develop the complexity of a farm?
  • At the risk of sounding cynical, do those who engage in defining animal welfare take into account the fact – by no means marginal – that every animal bred for human food would not exist if we did not choose to feed it and that the ever-increasing welfare conditions afforded to it do not prevent it from being slaughtered?

Let us return to the reflections on the two documents and list them:

  1. Comparing the demands of animal activists with EFSA’s considerations reveals a particular overlap. Can this be an indication of the ability of activists to influence academics whatever the reason for their demands?
  2. Ten years ago, EFSA had already issued some stringent indications to which the poultry sector adapted, sharing them, despite the fact that this entailed huge investments that are still being recovered given the low margins typical of the poultry business. Today, those limits and those indications seem to be unable to meet the needs of those who thought they were the best at the time. Why?
  3. Are EFSA and its members adequately up-to-date on the constant improvement of genetics and investments that the production sector makes autonomously and a priori even without external stimuli, aware as it is that every point of higher animal welfare also corresponds to a better economic yield?
  4. Is EFSA aware that, while some of their recommendations may become good suggestions and nourish a greater dialogue (currently lacking) between those who say and those who do, many others, if put into practice would actually produce a drastic decrease in food sources for humans? The one to reduce stocking density from 30 to 11kg/sq m, for example, would cause:
  • a 70 per cent reduction in production,
  • the closure of hundreds of small companies unable to compete in sustaining the required investments, increased costs and decreased revenues,
  • the increase of 3-4 times the price of meat to the public
  1. Neither the economic alternatives nor the alternatives needed to replace the food shortages that Europe would face by following the indications of these documents are indicated. Has EFSA, although not explicitly requested to do so, considered how to intervene to adequately support the shortages produced by their indications? What solutions should be adopted, for example, to compensate for the lower spending capacity of the poor and the need to access nutrients of similar quality to chicken meat and eggs?
  2. Has EFSA, although not expressly requested by the task, considered that the quickest solution the market will adopt is to resort to imports from those countries that not only are not subject to these standards, but have never even been in line with animal welfare and European food safety?


The Editorial Board of M.A.C.