Feature Chicken & Poultry

'Catching chickens differently too time-consuming'

June 5, 2024 - Matthijs Bremer

The College of Appeal for Trade and Industry (CBb) decided on April 4 that poultry for transport may no longer be lifted by the legs. The industry appealed against this, with moderate success. A transition period has now been established. Soon, poultry will be exempt from European regulations that stipulate that animals should not be picked up by the legs, but the timing is unclear. If this takes longer than the transition period, then the poultry sector will have a problem. 'There simply is not enough personnel available to catch poultry in a different way.'

The existing fines have been annulled by the CBb, and the court has set a transition period until August 15. Until then, the industry can continue to catch chickens by the legs. However, after that, a new method must be used. This is while in slaughterhouses, poultry can indeed be picked up by the legs.

The court made the decision after animal rights organization Wakker Dier filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Agriculture. The organization demands that companies lifting chickens by the legs be fined, as this is prohibited according to European regulations in their opinion. The court agreed, after which various fines were imposed. Various interest groups opposed the fines. The success of that was mixed.

Letter of the law
The interest groups are not satisfied with this. 'The ruling is strange, as it refers to a transport regulation from 2005,' says Nepluvi secretary Bart den Hartog. 'It is very strange that for nineteen years no one paid attention to the legislation, but now suddenly there is difficulty about the regulation.' Although the legislation is European, the ruling makes the Netherlands the only country where poultry is not caught by the legs, according to Den Hartog.

The regulation generically states that you should not catch animals by their legs. In addition, according to Den Hartog, the European Union forgot to include an exception for poultry. This can be read in letters from the European Commission. It is described in those letters that it has always been intended that poultry would be exempt from the law. 'The court ruled that those letters are not legally relevant and that only the letter of the law should be considered. This forgets the spirit of the law,' Den Hartog explains. However, this gap will be fixed in the short term. Europe is working on a new regulation that includes an explicit exception for poultry.

Additionally, the ruling creates a discrepancy. In slaughterhouses, poultry can still be picked up by the legs, Den Hartog explains. The rules for slaughterhouses are regulated in a different regulation, so different rules apply. The current ruling only concerns catching poultry for transport. However, this does not mean that slaughterhouses are not concerned about the ruling, as their supply chains are at risk of getting into trouble. Alternative methods take more time or are much more expensive.

'Transition period should be extended'
The simplest solution, called upright catching of poultry, takes about one and a half times longer, as shown by research from the Flemish Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO). According to Den Hartog, switching is almost impossible. 'There simply is not enough personnel available to catch poultry in a different way.' Den Hartog would like to see the transition period extended until there is more clarity about the new European regulation. Additionally, he hopes that the NVWA (Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) will be flexible.

Matthijs Bremer

Matthijs Bremer is a market specialist in pork, beef, and poultry meat at DCA Market Intelligence. He also monitors the protein transition, keeping an eye on developments in cultured meat and meat substitutes.
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