EPIC conference takes sustainability as its theme

“Sustainability – More from Less” is the theme of this year’s Egg and Poultry Industry Conference. But what’s it all about? Philip Clarke takes a look

UK agriculture, and the poultry sector within it, is moving into a new era – the era of sustainability.

The overall challenge is to provide enough food for a fast growing and rapidly changing population.

In the domestic market, it is less about volume and more about diversity, providing consumers with a broad spectrum of choice, while still competing with low-cost imports at the value end of the shopping aisle.

Overseas, it is more about volume, as the world’s food producers respond to the challenge of providing enough food for a rapidly growing and increasingly wealthy global population.

But for all producers, the new challenge is to do all this in a way that impacts less on the environment, makes the most of depleting resources, minimises waste and meets the wider expectations of society.

Some of these “sustainability” criteria are more important than others, depending where in the world you are. In Africa, for example, water availability is “top of mind”, while in Europe, the ethical treatment of birds and animals ranks high.

But in the UK, all of them are being kept under the closest of scrutiny by consumer and environmental watchdogs, as well as government.

The poultry sector has to be mindful of this, as it shapes itself for the future. Productivity and efficiency gains are still crucial, but cutting corners is not an option as we enter the era of sustainability.

These are the key issues that speakers at this year’s EPIC will be considering – though the debate is certain to go wider still.


Where and when?

EPIC 2011 takes place at the Forest of Arden Hotel, Meriden, near Birmingham, (postcode CV 7HR), on 6 and 7 November, with the conference proper starting at 9am on the Monday.

So who’s speaking?

This year’s line-up includes: British Poultry Council president, John Reed; Asda chief executive Andy Clarke; DEFRA farming minister James Paice; Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank’s head of agriculture James O’Mahony; and ADAS head of animal health and welfare, Andrew Walker.

The afternoon session will be kicked off by well-known blogger Dave Norris of “nogger” fame, followed by Andrew Jorét, technical director at Noble Foods and David Tompkins of the Waste and Renewable Action Programme (WRAP).

The conference will wind up with a presentation by Prof Patrick Wall, associate professor of public health at University College Dublin and former chairman of the European Food Safety Authority.

Once again, the conference will be run under the skilled chairmanship of James Hook of PD Hook.

What else is on offer?

As well as the conference, delegates can attend the opening drinks reception at 6.30pm on the Sunday evening, followed by the White Meat supper in the Woodland Suite. After the conference on the Monday, the Poultry Industry Banquet provides the ideal opportunity to relax with friends over a sumptuous meal.

How much?

The basic delegate fee is £206.28, with a charge of £70.73 for an attending partner or spouse. For bookings made after 14 October, these charges will be subject to a 2.5% admin fee. Other charges are £30.75 for the White Meat supper and £62.47 for the post-conference banquet.

So how do I book?

The best way to book is online by visiting the conference website, www.epiconference.co.uk and downloading the booking form, which can then be emailed to info@epiconference.co.uk Alternatively, phone Howard Birley on 01480 217 318 and ask for a form.

Where do I stay?

Accommodation can be booked at the Forest of Arden Hotel via the EPIC website under the “Venue” tab, or by phoning the hotel on 01676 522 335. Space is now very limited and you may need to divert to The Manor Hotel in Meriden, phone 01676 526 520.

What will I get out of it?

As well as a day of thought provoking debate, the speakers will aim to give practical recommendations and take away messages. And with 250 delegates, a reception, two big dinners and a trade stand area, there will be great networking opportunities as well.

Will I have fun?

There every chance of that. Comedian Gary Marshall will be entertaining delegates at The White Meat supper, while the banquet on the Monday incorporates a full cabaret. In addition, the Forest of Arden Hotel offers a health spa, fly fishing and golf – so get there a bit early on the Sunday to have a swim, bag a trout or get the clubs out.

Conference Agenda

9.00am Chairman’s introduction – James Hook, PD Hook

9.15am Conference president’s annual review – John Reed, chairman British Poultry Council

9.40am Andy Clarke, Asda, “The retailer’s perspective”

10.15 am Coffee

10.45am James Paice, DEFRA farming minister, “The government’s perspective”

James O’Mahony, Clydesdale Bank, “A perspective from the banking sector”

Andrew Walker, ADAS, “A health and animal welfare perspective”

12.20pm Panel debate

12.50pm Lunch

2.15pm Dave Norris, nogger’s blog, “A raw material market perspective”

Andrew Jorét, Nobel Foods, “A perspective on sustainable egg production post 2012”

David Tompkins, Waste and Renewable Action Programme, “A perspective from WRAP”

3.30pm Tea

4pm Patrick Wall, University College Dublin, “A food production/food safety perspective”

4.30pm Panel debate

(Programme correct at time of going to press)

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