In late 2016 I was fortunate enough to take a trip, courtesy of an International Dutch based feed company, to Holland to get an understanding of their approach to commercial egg farming. This was an eye opening experience as the poultry companies over there are under the constant spotlight of animal welfare organizations, health and hygiene groups and a country that can choose the best eggs because they produce three times the amount of eggs needed within Holland, the rest are exported to countries all over Europe.
Although I learnt a huge amount in Holland, the two most important facts I took on board was how the poultry and egg companies helped educate the public into a position where they could make an informed decision as to what sort of egg type best suited their needs. The second fact was how important it was to grow and lay a chicken in the most humane, efficient manner whilst under the spotlight of so many onlookers. The amazing thing was how many methods are used and the reasons each is applied. Some methods look great on the surface but are really marketing strategies for the public and have little concern for the chicken, others are very positive for the chicken but really battle to be commercially viable. One gentleman I met has a new strategy and outlook which I will share in detail in another post but in brief his thinking went right back to the origins of the chicken , its behaviour and instincts and he applied this on certain farms on flocks of 45000 hens. He talked me through his thinking, pretty simple really, out of the box, but what really made me sit up and think he is onto something was when he showed me his results: The livability of the hens was really high which meant he got more eggs per hen, their health status was excellent and their production figures were well above average. He put this down to the fact that his hens were allowed to follow a lifestyle that allowed them to follow their instincts freely and quite simply a happier healthier hen gives you more eggs and better quality ones to.
As human beings we often transfer our own welfare issues onto animals and generally we are wrong as we need to understand the animal first before we decide what its welfare issues are. Animal welfare is not what makes humans happy it’s what makes animals comfortable and healthy in an environment that suits their needs.