Introducing GM feeds into poultry rations is probably only a year away, but the reintroduction of Processed Animal Protein represents a much greater challenge.
Speaking at this week’s Pig and Poultry LIVE 2011 at Stoneleigh, David Gibson of poultry processor Moy Park said that being obliged to keep GM ingredients out of poultry feed was adding extra cost to producers.
“Our customer profile currently wants us to stick with non-GM,” he said. “But we can see GM in the not too distant future really moving forward.”
But any attempt to reintroduce PAP would have to be handled very carefully, given the past associations with BSE, he added.
The industry would have to emphasise the positives, in particular that PAP was a more sustainable alternative to imported soya as a source of protein. “I don’t see it being used in the short term in the UK,” Mr Gibson told the conference.
James Hook of Hook 2 Sisters said that GM feed was only being kept out of poultry rations at the insistence of the supermarkets. There was no scientific justification and he suggested that it could be back in poultry rations next year. “Consumers don’t mind it, to be quite frank.”
But he had greater concern about PAP. Whatever the scientific arguments in its favour, he suggested it would be at least another five years before the industry was able to use it. “If we’re going to use it, we’ve got to get it right.”
These messages resonated with the audience. Asked whether they believed consumers would accept GM ingredients in pig and poultry rations, 77% of the 450-plus delegates said Yes and 23% said No.
But when asked the same question in relation to PAP, only 30% believed consumers would accept it, while 70% said No.
This was born out in customer research conducted by the Royal Agricultural Society for England ahead of Pig and Poultry LIVE 2011.
While most consumers interviewed in a focus group were pretty negative towards both GM and PAP to start with, once they had had a full explanation of the science and regulation behind each, they were generally comfortable with GM. “If you served it up I’d eat it,” said one.
But they were no happier about PAP, whatever the science. “It’s just the thought of what goes into animal feed – it horrifies me,” was one comment.
Panellist and food writer Rosemary Moon said that the most important thing was to change the name of the controversial feed ingredient. “If you use the word PAP, you’re lost before you’ve even started. It’s a disastrous term,” she said.
But she added that the argument could still be won. “If we can stop bringing feed (soya) from the other side of the world and use what is now a waste product instead – to me it is a no-brainer.”
* Read more from Pig and Poultry LIVE 2011.