Dossier day-old Chickens: The market for culled one-day-old chicks

Every year, as a by-product of the production of laying hens, an estimated 45 million day-old male chicks are born and killed in the hatchery immediately after hatch.

Almost all surplus day-old chicks from laying hens find a useful destination as frozen food in specific animal feed channels and because of their unique properties, the numbers in which they are available and the relatively low price, they cannot easily be replaced by other food animals.

Almost all the killed day-old male chicks are frozen and used as feed animals in specific animal feed channels (93% = 42 million chicks = 1.680 tonnes). Only day-old chicks of insufficient quality are disposed as waste.

Approximately 15% of the born and frozen day-old chicks (= 6.8 chicks = 270 kg tonnes) is sold to Dutch zoos, falconers and through pet shops or directly to individual pet owners. Around 85% of the Dutch frozen chicks gets a destination abroad (Europe).

Day-old chicks are mostly fed to birds of prey (falcons, buzzards, owls, etc.) and other large birds (storks, hear ravens, cranes, etc.). For birds of prey, chicks are part of a menu of intact feed animals that is as varied as possible (including mice, rats et cetera). For some birds (such as storks), often the entire menu consists of day-old chicks.

In a small amount, chicks are also fed to pets like dogs, cats and some reptiles. For these categories, the product ‘day-old chick’ is of minor importance.

There are important nutritional, labour and financial benefits associated with the feeding of day-old chicks.


EFSA Scientific report on animal health and welfare aspects of Avian Influenza

In 2005 the Eurpean Commission asks the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to review 2000 and 2003 scientific pinions (SCAHAW, 2000 and 2003) on avian influenza in the light of more recent scientific data.

The EFSA scientific opinion should in particular describe:

1. an assessment of the risk of the introduction, and possible secondary spread, of LPAI and HPAI into the EU via different commodities, such as live poultry, ornamental birds, hatching eggs, table eggs, fresh poultry and other poultry products. In addition the scientific opinion should describe the risk factors for disease introduction into poultry holdings and surveillance tools and procedures available for early detection of AI in poultry holdings in relation to those risks;

2. the role of “backyard” poultry flocks in the epidemiology of avian influenza and available disease control tools for this specific population;

3. the risk of disease transmission between certain avian species in particular with respect to pigeons and anseriformes;

4. the risk of virus persistence in poultry manure and farm waste and a description of the possible inactivation and disinfection procedures that could be applied to these materials;

5. the animal welfare aspects of avian influenza including the implications of the different control strategies.


Taiwan vows to develop first vaccine against fatal H7N9 avian flu

By Agence France-Presse, Monday, October 14, 2013. Taiwan is scheduled to roll out its first vaccine against the H7N9 strain of avian flu in late 2014, after the island confirmed the first outbreak of the deadly virus earlier this year, researchers said Monday.

Health authorities in Taiwan confirmed in April that a 53-year-old Taiwanese man, who had been working in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, showed symptoms three days after returning home via Shanghai. The man, who was infected in China, was in serious but stable condition when he was hospitalised. Although the patient was eventually discharged, the outbreak prompted Taiwanese authorities to gear up research on a vaccine against the strain of avian influenza, given the ever closer exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.

“We plan to start Phase II clinical trial in March,” which will contain 300 clinical cases, Su Ih-jen, director of the National Institute of Diseases and Vaccinology at the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI), told AFP. After that, the project is scheduled to move into Phase III clinical trial in June, with 1,000 people being tested, he said. The NHRI is able to produce 200,000 doses of the cell-based vaccine once the project clears the Phase III trial stage, he said.

Su termed as “one of the most deadly diseases” threatening human beings. “As of now H7N9 is the virus most likely to cause comprehensive transmission throughout the world as studies show that it can be spread through upper respiratory tract,” Su said. He was comparing it to the H5N1 strain of avian flu, which affects airways and lungs, or the lower respiratory tract.

Since 2003, the H5N1 strain has killed more than 250 people in a dozen countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). As of August, WHO has been informed of a total of 135 laboratory-confirmed human cases with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus, including 44 deaths. Most of the cases were recorded in China.

Following its first outbreak, Taiwan had brought forward plans to ban the killing of live poultry in traditional markets by a month, to May 17. Under the ban, market vendors will not be allowed to sell birds they have killed themselves, only poultry supplied from Taiwan’s 79 approved slaughterhouses. There are about 870,000 Taiwanese people living in China. Trade and cross-strait travel have soared in recent years, after decades of tension since the two sides split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.


Another H7N9 case confirmed in China

BEIJING (Oct 15, 2013): Another new H7N9 bird flu case has been confirmed in eastern China’s Zhejiang province when a man tested positive for the virus, local authorities said today. The 35-year-old patient, surnamed Liu, was warded at a township hospital on Oct 8 and hospitalized at the Shaoxing county hospital where he is reportedly in critical condition, Xinhua news agency reported. The patient’s condition has been severe; there has been coma, edema, and pulmonary symptoms of low blood oxygen saturation.

The patient’s condition and February this year he was first discovered in Shanghai Minhang H7N9 cases are very similar.
Liu tested positive for the H7N9 virus at the Zhejiang Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the provincial health department. Mainland China has reported a total of 134 H7N9 bird flu cases by August-end, including 45 deaths, said the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Though officials from the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission said yesterday there were no new H7N9 cases reported in the city, local medical experts said autumn and winter are the season for respiratory diseases like flu and there was a possibility that H7N9 cases may make a comeback.

“Both the authorities and public should stay on high alert and I suggest a complete ban on live poultry business to help control the spread of H7N9,” said Dr Lu Hongzhou, a member of the nation’s H7N9 prevention and control expert group and vice president of Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center.

Liu, who works in Shaoxing County, was admitted to a hospital on October 8. He is in critical condition and is receiving treatment. None of his family members have showed flu-like symptoms According to Lu, who went to the hospital in Shaoxing soon after receiving a call on Sunday night, said he told the hospital to adopt effective anti-viral therapy immediately.
Experts believe that clinical practice in line with H7N9 treatment must be adopted including transporting the patient to a ward with negative pressure and isolation. He should be disinfected and his family members should take necessary self-protection measures.

Lu said the patient was overweight. His job includes painting and goes out for sketching outdoors frequently. “It means he may have contacted it from the birds,” Lu said. Lu said H7N9 is a novel virus and there were still many unknown aspects of the virus like its mutation. In particular, there has been no effective vaccine against the virus. The number of H7N9 bird flu cases in China reached 134 by the end of last month since the first human infection was confirmed in late March.

The live poultry trade was suspended in Shanghai in April but was back in business in late June.


Urgent problem emerging in German layer sector

In the World Poultry of October 10, 2013, an article has been published about what to do with 40 million male chicks per year from layer lines, in Germany alone. That was the question raised during the 51st Franchise distributor meeting of Lohmann Tierzucht. Just a few days earlier the German state Nordrhein-Westfalen banned the killing of male day-old chicks in layer hatcheries, with a transition period of only 1 year. Politicians of the neighbouring state Niedersachsen immediately announced they were thinking to do the same, implying that the ban could be rolled out over the whole of Germany and even beyond.

“Let me be very clear on this subject, we have a very serious and acute problem,” managing director of Lohmann Tierzucht Rudolf Preisinger stated. And indeed, he is right. The discussion of killing of male day-old chicks is a political discussion that has been going on in Europe for the past 20 years and has now come to the point that the subject needs to be addressed. It is now a fundamental and political problem. Nordrhein- Westfalens Minister responsible for animal welfare Johannes Remmel (Die Grünen) categorized in a German publication in Focus Online the killing of male day-old chickens as absolutely horrible. According to his opinion the killing of chickens in the hatchery has to come to a stop:

• Regardless of what the alternatives are for the use of male day old chicks after hatching;
• Regardless of the question if the methods of killing are animal friendly or not;
• Regardless of the question how to compensate the 180.000.000 male day-old-chicks that are used in zoos;
• Even regardless of the question that there is currently no solution at hand, either for sexing eggs or what to do with a poultry product that the consumers don’t want.

And there are more issues to address: How to deal with the doubling of the use of animal feed and the produced chicken manure, because:

• These male chickens eat as much as their sisters
• They litter as much as their sisters
• They don’t produce enough meat
• The bone structure is too weak and will break easily
• The price of a processed male chicken to be used for human consumption is too high compared to the price for chicken that is produced for its meat

Than there is a last fundamental question left and that is what to do with the chickens that are disabled, sick, cripple, late hatched chickens and so on. Its not allowed macerating them anymore, together with the eggshells, but what to do with them instead?

It is a political issue that has been put on the table in the hope that over time, the question whether or not its legit to kill chickens after sexing is going to be answered once and for all. The authorities placed the industry before an impossible choice:

A. Going forward with the killing of male chicks in the layer industry and macerating disabled chicks in the broiler industry and taking the risk of being trialed
B. Stop the production of poultry in Nordrhein- Westfalen.

The animal welfare community celebrated the step as a victory, but that might be too early. For the time being, the industry has little choice but to continue its current practice and by doing that, they are forced to step into the political arena and justify why they chose to continue their practices. It will be a long and fundamental battle. But according to the current political opinion with in the EU, it is justified by the fact that the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing is a matter of public concern that affects consumer attitudes towards agricultural products. Whoever will win the debate and how all the related issues are going to be addressed in the near future: this will not be the last article about what to do with male day old chickens.


What would a flu pandemic in the USA look like? More like a war than a natural disaster, a government report indicates

The USA is by far one of the best-prepared countries in the world when it comes to managing possible outbreak situations. This recently declassified Department of Defense report, dated August 2009, estimates that a full-blown flu pandemic could sicken about 30% of the U.S. population, leading to 3 million hospitalizations and 2 million deaths.
This Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza of the US Department of Defense directs how to prepare for, detect, respond to and contain the effect of a pandemic on military forces, DOD civilians, DOD contractors, dependents and beneficiaries.
Additionally, it addresses the provision of the US Department Of Defense assistance to civil authorities, foreign and domestic, as well as key security concerns such as humanitarian relief and stabilization operations that may arise. A very interesting report that I would recomment to read!