Editor’s diary: Versatility

ONE OF the more pleasant tasks as editor is being one of the judges for the British Turkey Awards.

Organised last month by the British Turkey Sector Group along with fellow judges, Karen Barnes of Good Housekeeping, Richard Clarke of The Grocer and Max Gosney of PubChef, we sampled our way through a variety of turkey products and accompaniments.

Coming from different backgrounds and representing different sectors involved with turkey, it was amazing how often we all agreed with the winners in each category.

The products that made the shortlist represented not only good value for money but confirmed the versatility of turkey meat for both the consumer and caterer.

Returning after the judging, I visited my local supermarket to find the meat shelves sadly lacking in turkey products.

While the industry is to be applauded in setting up the awards, without more backing from retailers at point of sale, the value of turkey as a healthy and versatile meat will be lost on many consumers.

Who’s in charge?
We are now faced with differing interpretations of EU regulations with the Scots insisting on aerial perches for free-range houses whereas, for once, the more enlightened DEFRA appears to accept perches which are an integral part of the slatted floor.

But perhaps more interesting is that officials from the EU are monitoring how the different countries interpret the regulations. The point is why are taxpayers funding so many departments in the UK and EU, who carry out the same tasks?

If we are a United Kingdom surely there should be one regulatory body looking after the interpretation of legislation. I often ask colleagues holding British passports why do we have to triple the number of civil servants to carry out the same tasks and interpret them.

Surely, in 2004 the time has come to cut out this added bureaucracy of having separate departments looking after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. After all, we give them more representation in the House of Commons than the beleaguered English who, at the end of the day foot the bill.

The Advisory Committee on Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) has published its second report on campylobacter against the background of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) target of reducing food-borne disease by 20% by 2006. More relevant is the FSA’S proposal for a halving in the incidence of campylobacter on UK chicken at retail by 2010.

The key recommendations of the report include the need for the FSA to work with the industry to achieve a wider acceptance that campylobacter could be controlled in housed birds. One practice that came in for scrutiny is thinning.

The committee concluded that unless the industry improved its practices, the case for discontinuing thinning was very strong.

Pure breed problems
Last month’s disappointing turnout at the Royal Show (page 9, August, Poultry World) was laid at the hands of the organisers, the RASE, who required stock entered to be vaccinated against Newcastle disease (ND). Claire Beebe, who’s Poland Blue won the championship, explained that most pure breeds were not vaccinated since they did not class themselves as commercial poultry.

However, Mike Clarke of the Poultry Club felt the fact that the Royal was a three-day show in July meant fanciers did not have the stock available for exhibition as birds were just out of breeding and moulting making it autumn before stock were suitable for showing.

The question of vaccination is certainly one that needs to be addressed since exhibition stock is just as susceptible to infection as commercial stock, particularly free range.

However, the small numbers involved create a problem for fanciers as vaccines are supplied in 500/1000 dose vials/sachets. With the interest in backyard flocks and fancy fowl increasing, the industry must address how best we can protect these birds.

For those purchasing pullets purely to produce a few eggs for the house, it should be relatively easy to ensure they purchase vaccinated commercial pullets.

However, it should be taken into account that although the threat of ND is low the industry, large or small, cannot afford to take many chances.

SEPRA back
The British Egg Information Council has now reinstated SEPRA on their website. SEPRA’s own website improves month by month, now with details of how to boil and egg to the tune and words of ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’.

Corrigan ventures south
At the end of July, I finally caught up with Mike Corrigan at the Heckington Village Show near Sleaford. The show, said to be the largest village show in England and held every year since 1864, is well worth a visit, although this year, the second day was almost washed out following a torrential downpour. I spied Mike in the poultry tent receiving a lesson on how to judge eggs from expert Herbert Squires.

Northern Ireland
Last month I was a guest of R A Wright (Chicks), who have been distributing ISA layers since the early 1960s. Despite the fact that the industry has contracted there are still many excellent producers who have remained loyal to the ISABROWN which still predominates.

Much of this is because R A Wright’s team have responded to changes in the marketplace and through unique sales and technical backup have guided their customers through the difficult times of the past few years.