Archive for Regulations and Standards

Farmer Slaughter Bird Payment Systems

When a farmer is selling to a processor it is essential that the payment structure rewards quality birds and penalises poor quality birds with minimal meat yield as the cost of processing these poor quality birds are significantly higher.  Poor quality, low yielding birds, all too often, also have poorer quality skins and feathers. The following are descriptions of the different payment methods that are or have been used over the years.

Slaughter Bird – based on live or deadweight:
The farmer is paid a price per bird, usually based on liveweight.  Over the years this has proved unsuccessful.  Currently liveweight is a poor guide to meat yield or quality of that meat.  Some birds carry an extensive amount of fat and others little or no fat. Genetics are also extremely variable at this time.  As the ostrich skin is paid on a grading system, there is no way to assess the quality of that skin while the bird is alive.  This method of farmer payment does not reward the quality bird adequately to encourage or support production of high yielding birds producing quality meat and skin.

All other payment systems currently used separate the payment of the skin and the carcass for assessing the total value of the farmer payment.   The skin may be retained by the farmer to sell directly or the slaughter facility will pay the farmer directly.   In some slaughter facilities where volume is sufficient, the feathers will be valued independently, but usually they are included in the price paid to the farmer for the carcass and meat.  While volumes are low, the market opportunities for the feathers are low in relation to the handling costs.

Carcass weight:   WOA Ostrich Benchmark Production Targets provides the definition of a carcass.

Payment by carcass weight maybe a set amount at the same weight per kilo for all birds, or it may be split into different weight classifications for a tiered payment structure.  The latter is preferable as it is much fairer to the good farmer.  It also encourages production of birds carrying higher meat yields, which are cheaper to process and return more revenue as illustrated in Figure 1.

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Figure 2: Comparative Processing Costs relating to Meat Yield [Newsletter 77]

Boneless meat yield:  WOA Meat Yield Classifications provides the WOA standards.  This payment is based on the weight of the saleable meat removed from the carcass.  If offered payment in this way, the producer should ensure there is a very clear definition of all that is included and how it is calculated.  Payment on boneless meat yield basis will also have a weight classification system to enable a tiered payment structure to pay according to the yield class.

This tiered payment structure passes on savings made in the processing back to the farmer as he produced a better quality bird.  Figure 1 illustrated the savings in processing costs when valued on a per kilo basis.  Figure 2 illustrates comparative carcasses, illustrating different weights.

comparative carcasses

Figure 2: Comparative Carcasses

Figure 2 illustrates 2 carcasses.  The left hand carcass yielded 38% more meat, therefore 38% increased meat revenue and will have cost the same to slaughter and process.

Apart from weight the other difference in these birds is the days they took to reach this stage.  Clearly the increased yield was achieved as the bird was fed for 60 more days and that adds additional costs for the producer.  Another good reason for paying an increased price to represent the savings made on the kilo processing costs.

Carcass Grade:  The WOA Carcass Grading System provides definitions for the different grades in addition to payment structure based on yield classification, carcasses should be graded for quality. Grading will consider Bird Age, Fat Colour, Muscle Colouration, Heart Condition, Liver Condition, Presence of any Disease and any other condition that is not acceptable – such as bruising.  Carcass grade can be applied to any of the above payment systems.  This also helps differentiate the age of the birds to ensure older birds are not slipped into a batch of slaughter birds.

This discussion relates to payment systems for payments to the producer of birds by buyers of slaughter birds to encourage the production of better quality birds.   Many of the South African slaughter plants were owned by the producers.  These test birds were slaughtered in such a slaughter plant.  Whilst the managers the farmer’s employed to slaughter and market their birds could see these benefits, the challenge was the getting the farmers to understand the benefits and how they could achieve the improved production.

How do Buyers of Slaughter Birds verify the Age of Birds?
The answer to this question currently is very simple. The supplying farm must have verifiable records that record the date of hatch.

Ostrich do change their feathers at particular stages of growth. The diet the birds are fed and the management of the birds influence the stages of growth and these can be extremely variable.

In the mid 1990s some South African scientists produced data based on bone development as a means of verifying the age of birds. However bone development is also diet dependent, so is not a reliable method to determine bird age accurately without comparative studies.

AGM 2013 Minutes

The Minutes of the Annual General Meeting are now available to members here.  Please note you will to log on to access.

Annual General Meeting 2013

The 11th Annual General meeting of the World Ostrich Association will take place on 22nd November at 20.00pm GMT (UK Time) at 33 Eden Grange, Little Corby, Carlisle, England. The meeting will take place on line through Skype and open to all members.  The agenda and full meeting details are only available to all members. Members can access the agenda and full details on how to attend here.  Access to this page requires you to login with your membership username and password.

South Africa Avian Flu Update

Over the past few years the South African Ostrich Industry has experienced a number of outbreaks of Avian Influenza in ostrich which has blocked their ability to export ostrich meat, fertile eggs and livestock.  Over the years of our newsletters, we have updated readers with the current situation.

On 25th July, 2013 the veterinary services submitted their "resolved" report to The OIE for the outbreak that started in February, 2011. We have first reports for export certificates for fertile eggs but still require confirmation of any being granted.

Any member who has had success, please add a comment.  Any non-member, please email our admin to let us know to enable us to inform members and others readers.

Balancing Animal and Human Health Requirements

Newsletter No. 86

As the title suggests, this section discussed the interrelationships between animal and human health. Below is a simplistic diagram outlining the interrelationships between human and animal diseases.

Impact of animal disases on human well-being

The table below provides some estimated costs of disease outbreaks over the past few years.  There are a number of areas where disease control has impacted seriously on ostrich and especially South Africa and Israel.

Cost Estimates of disease

Some Estimated costs of disease in developed and developing countries

Newcastle Disease (NCD), Congo Fever and Avian Influenza (AI) are 3 diseases that have had a major impact on the development of ostrich as an industry over the last couple of decades.  Any country that has NCD requires more stringent export regulations than those that have a NCD disease free status in all avian specie.  When exporting many countries require the meat can only be sold “off the bone”.   Australia’s fledgling ostrich industry was devastated some years ago when the whole of the country was shut down to exports as a result of an outbreak of NCD in poultry in one area.  The country had not designated regions and protocols for handling such outbreaks in ostrich at the time.  South Africa was more proactive as the industry was larger at the time with more organised companies to drive this.

When the ostrich industry was first deregulated, meat sales were growing rapidly when it was reported that several ostrich slaughter plant workers had contracted Congo Fever from ostriches.   This shut down exports for a considerable amount of time while protocols were discussed and put in place forcing many new comers to leave the industry. These protocols have added significantly to the production costs.

The protocols required for the control of NCD and Congo Fever also impact on potential production as birds have require handling more frequently than would be the case if these controls were not required.

The H5N1 outbreak of AI was responsible for the end of the Israeli industry.  The outbreak in poultry closed down the export of all poultry, including ostrich.  The Israeli industry had no domestic market for their meat and the industry so far has been unable to recover.   More recently we have seen the devastation caused to the South African industry when another strain of AI was found in ostriches.

As can be seen the economic threats of disease outbreaks are devastating.  Therefore disease control and risk management is highlighted as extremely important.  This comes at producer level as well as governmental level.

We are now a global village and the document does note the challenges of poorer countries to participate in enhanced standards of health and food safety in order to gain greater access to markets that are currently unavailable to them.  On this matter it is worth noting that we regularly have enquiries from potential new entrants wanting to start production and expecting to export their product immediately.  Establishing protocols and a track record take time and can only be built around development of local markets as a starting point.

Conclusion
The key messages of the report as they affect Ostrich are:

  • The livestock sector is changing
    • For ostrich to be competitive, requires greater attention to modernisation of production systems
  • The livestock sector contributes to food security and poverty reduction
    • Farmed efficiently, ostrich has the potential to provide red meat protein cost effectively, thus enabling greater choice, especially for those populations unable to consume pig meat.
  • The livestock sector needs to improve its environmental  performance
    • With a good proportion of the food requirements coming from a forage legume, ostrich not only provide quality meat from forage, but also a crop that contributes well to crop rotations helping to reduce artificial inputs.
  • Livestock diseases pose systemic risks that require addressing
    • Various diseases have impacted on the development of our industry, but they can be managed with good planning.

 

Certification Schemes – EU Impact Assessment

Newletter No. 78 - Item 4

We regularly discuss the use of certification schemes that increasingly form part of the marketing strategies of our potential buyers.   The EU published a document entitled:  “Agricultural Product Quality Policy: Impact Assessment.  Annex D, Certification Schemes for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs.”

Whilst the document is produced by the EU, the issues raised are increasingly reflected in conditions for servicing most export meat markets today.   This is an 87 page document that provides an insight into consumer concerns that influence current marketing strategies, assurance schemes and some of the legislation.  The following is Table 4, page 28 and 29 of the document.

78_table4_1

78_table4_2

A full study of the document provides a good insight into these issues that influence the marketing and acceptance of products.  The document illustrates why it is so important to know your markets prior to commencing production to ensure that all procedures required to satisfy your market requirements are in place.

Ostrich Value Chain – 2

Newsletter 74 - Infrastructure

This section discussed just why the development of a collaborateve infrastructure is so enssential in today's market place that is dominated by global supermarket and hospitality industry global brands.  The excellent graphics produced by the project managers illustrate well the aspects to support a group of small farmers and explain why it is extremely difficult, if not impossible for those producing small volume to work alone:

74_onefarmer

Figure 1 - One Farmer Working Alone

Figure 1 illustrates how one farmer working alone produces less volume than many farmers working in collaboration to build volume – figure 2.  This principal applies to all aspects of agriculture and not simply ostrich production.   However, because ostrich production is new, usually there is no infrastructure already in place to enable new entrants to simply slot into.

Figure 2 - Many Farmers Working in Collaboration

Figure 2 - Beneftis in Collaboration

Figure 3 illustrates the various aspects required to provide support and achieve economies of scale that are impossible when farmers are working in isolation.   Another benefit is the ability to program production through the slaughter and processing plants to enable them to maintain regular throughput.

Small Farmer Support

Figure 3 - Small Farmer Support [copyright Khula Sizwe South Africa]

Summarising the different components that working in a collaborative enterprise of small farmers to build a complete value chain:

  • Markets
    • Where to sell
    • When to sell
    • Product Quality
    • Transport
    • Risks
  • Training
    • Technical
    • Business
    • Practical Support
  • Inputs (ostrich)
    • Chicks
    • Feed
    • Veterinary
    • Identification
    • Records
  • Opportunity
    • Business Type
    • Available resources
    • Practical Support
    • Confidence and Vision
  • Business Planning
    • Contracts to supply
    • Security of inputs
    • Budgets and Financial Controls
    • Funding Requirements
      • Capital for Infrastructure
      • Working Capital
  • Social Support
    • Health
    • Community
    • Communication

The structure of this particular enterprise has been developed to support the development of small farmers, with all the farmers operating as independent enterprises that also have share ownership in the processing company. There are many ways to structure the different elements of a value chain.  The important factor is that to start ostrich production, all elements must be in place from the start.  If not there must be provision in the business plan to build all these elements and ensure adequate resources for capital investment and working capital before commencement of the project is in place.  If there is insufficient capital, as is continually proven over the past two decades, the operations fail.  In today’s markets it is very difficult to operate on a small scale in a sustainable manner in many livestock businesses.  Another reason for failure is failing to meet the production targets laid down in the business plan.  In this plan any farmer suffering mortality of greater than 30% and a feed conversion ratio greater than 3:1 at 50kgs will be removed from the scheme.

74_valuechain_gen

Figure 4 - Generic Ostrich Value Chain

Figure 4 is a generic Ostrich Value Chain, illustrating the components that need to be in place.  Some elements, such as crop production can be outsourced.  Every single member of the chain is interdependent on the other for the success of the whole.  The success of the whole is essential for each member to optimise their return.

Ostrich Veterinary Health Plan

Newsletter No 55 - Item 3 & 4

An important element of any assurance scheme is the Veterinary Health Plan.

The Veterinary Health Plan (VHP) is a requirement of most Farm Assurance Schemes and retailers “codes of practice”.

The VHP is a document agreed between the farm’s vet and the farm management working in partnership.  The plan involves regular visits by the farm’s own vet.  The recommendation is the same vet carries out these visits to maintain consistency.

VHPs need to address a number of areas to achieve those objectives, such as:

-  flock security/biosecurity
-  basic performance parameters
-  the monitoring of body condition
-  general ostrich welfare
-  basic disease control programmes
-  recording, monitoring and controlling disease on the farm
-  the use of medicines, vaccines, their safety and their recording

This newsletter focused on the veterinary health plan as it applies to ostrich, as most vets will admit that information on ostrich is limited.  (Note at 2013 this statement remains true).  The way to approach the development of an Ostrich specific plan is to look at the plans designed for other species and then adapt them to ostrich. Just like the Business Plan, the Veterinary Health Plan is a living document that will be under continual review to improve and update with experience and current market conditions.

Flock Security
The ability to supply markets on a consistent basis is paramount to success of any business. The most influential management area that controls consistent supply in livestock production is the control of disease.  Consistency of product quality is also extremely important, but only relevant once the security of supply is under management control.

The role of the VHP is to help identify weaknesses in farm production that influence the ability to limit the impact of disease.

Basic Performance Parameters
These are examples with ostrich of some of the basic performance parameters that provide an indication as to the success of the management systems to deliver good health and welfare as well as profit:

-  egg fertility

-  feed conversion

-  egg hatchability

-  deaths

-  hatching difficulties

-  injuries

-  breeder culling rates

-  incidence and type of lameness

-  percentage chick to slaughter/breeder

-  medicine use and reason

-  metabolic diseases

The WOA benchmark targets are very achievable performance parameters.

Monitoring Body Condition
Currently there are very few references on how to establish optimal body condition of ostrich.   Figure 1 below illustrate the extremes currently experienced in the industry.  The hen on the left is very thin with poor feather quality when compared to the hen on the right.  You will notice also, how little muscle this hen has across her back by comparison to the hen on the right.

The hen on the left had a ration that was mainly grain based, with limited vitamins and minerals.  The hen on the right received rations that are of high nutrient value with high levels of vitamins and minerals.

comparative hens

Figure 1 - Comparative Hens

Apart from visual inspection, the way to physically assess the body condition of ostrich:

Quote: When the backbone at the highest place on the bird's back is protruding above the surrounding flesh, the bird is too thin. When the backbone at the highest place on the bird's back is indented below the surrounding flesh, the bird is too fat and needs decreased feed—or a different feed formulation.  The optimum Body Condition is when the backbone at the highest point on their back is perfectly even with the surrounding flesh End Quote [1].

3.4.  General Ostrich Welfare
At the most basic level, this covers the internationally recognised five freedoms. These basic freedoms are:

-  Freedom from hunger and thirst
By ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour

- Freedom from discomfort
By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area

- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

- Freedom to express normal behaviour
By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind

- Freedom from fear and distress
By ensuring conditions and care which avoid mental suffering

Top of that list is freedom from hunger.  The current poor production results – variable egg production and low conversion of eggs to slaughter/mature birds, is a key indicator that the industry in general is failing to achieve that first freedom through the inadequate supply of the right nutrients in the diet.

Basic Disease Control Programs
Strategies, procedures and the recording of general policies fall into this category.

- cleansing and hygiene policies including disinfectants used
§ Buildings
§ Pens
§ Water Troughs
§ Feed Troughs
- pest control (including rodents and birds)
- parasite controls (internal and external)
- hospital and isolation pens
- casualty slaughter

Recording, Monitoring and Controlling disease on farm
Good records are the key to not only monitoring disease issues but also performance trends as the two are closely linked.  A drop in production is a sign of possible disease problems.  Another cause for a drop in production, and/or more serious health problems, can be a feed problem.  Feed problems can be such things as a bad ingredient, sudden change of ingredient, poor mixing or insufficient water intake.

In addition to the normal farm production and feed data, the type of records required relating to disease are:

- Diseases identified
- Age of animal affected
- Method of Treatment
- Method of Control
- Review Periods
- Effectiveness of control programs

The movement records of any animals moved onto the farm or off the farm are also of importance in monitoring and controlling disease.

The use of medicines, vaccines, their safety and their recording
This section covers the recording of all medicines used in the unit.  The VHP should follow the legal requirements of the country in which the business is operating and include any additional requirements imposed by country the unit is exporting or buyer.  The type of information required is:

- the date treatment commenced
- the animal it is used on
- its identification and location
- the condition or disease treated
- the medicine used
- the batch number of the bottle
- the dose rate given
- the number of days that the medicine is used
- the withdrawal period in days
- the date at which the withdrawal period expires (the date of clearance)
- a note of who has administered the medicine
- details of all medicines purchased

Also included in this section are the procedures for:

-  the safe disposal of all clinical waste
-  storage of medicines
-  off-label use of medicines

Off-label use of medicines is the use of a product not licensed for the specie treated.  This is very common with ostrich as there are very few, if any, approved medicines for ostrich in most countries.  The laws will vary in different countries, but generally, this is allowed provided the medicine has a licence for food-producing species with an approved meat withdrawal period.  Check the law within your country and any country the unit exports meat to.

The role of Nutrition in Disease Control
The role of that nutrition in the control of disease is well documented and becoming increasingly important with governments eliminating the use of antibiotics in meat producing livestock.

This quote from a publication issued this month relates to human nutrition, but the same principles apply to livestock nutrition.  The article relates to Vitamin D.

Quote:  Meanwhile two other studies recently claimed that if we all got adequate amounts of this vitamin it would be possible to cut rates of breast, prostate and colon cancer by 50%.  And that’s not all – yet another research paper by researchers at the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta suggested that the reason we are all more likely to get colds and flu in the winter could be because that’s the time it’s hard to get enough Vitamin D.  Its role as an infection fighter could maybe used to tackle new enemies like bird flu, tuberculosis and MRSA. End quote[2]

When reading any discussion on the effect of a single nutrient, always remember that nutrients work in harmony with other essential nutrients.  The role of nutrition in human and animal health to fight disease and building a strong immune system is the foundation for disease control.  

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[1] Daryl Holle Body Condition is Most Important:  http://www.blue-mountain.net/feed/feedprogost.htm#BodyCondition

[2] Patrick Holford Special Report No. 18 – Vitamin D – you are almost certainly not getting enough

Marketing Starts on the Farm – 2

Newsletter No. 54

Establishing a market for their products is critical to the success of any business. With livestock, it used to be that you would raise your animal and when it was finished, take it to market. Today that is all changing very rapidly, not just in the EU but also in many importing countries as a result of globalisation, which has resulted in food crossing international borders.

Consumer demand today for greater food security and improved animal welfare makes it increasingly difficult for buyers to source livestock through the market system and retain the ablity to offer these securities.  .

The legislation now in place in the EU and many other countries makes it increasingly challenging to provide the full traceability for animals purchased at livestock markets. Buyers today also seek greater consistency and uniformity as well as security of supply.

As at 2013, the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe has raised further awareness and concerns on food security and traceability.

To achieve buyer requirements the larger meat buyers purchase on contract and lay down stringent rearing standards, over and above those laid down by legislation. These rearing standards are not possible to monitor when they have no direct access to the animals while on farm because the first time they are seen is at the market.

These are some of the areas controlled on farm and if not in place, many buyers will not buy the meat.

- Food Safety/Consumer Health
- Animal Welfare
- Residue Monitoring
- Quality
- Disease Control
- Reliability of Supply

This clearly demonstrates why marketing starts on the farm. If all these things are not in place on the farm, then the market is limited if available at all.

It is not easy to place these factors in any particular order of importance because a failure in any one area can halt market availability even if the farm is perfect in all other areas.

The following illustrate these issues and discuss the role of the WOA in establishing protocols, where appropriate, with greatest focus on the areas that are important at farm level.

Food Safety/Consumer Health
In meat production examples of areas that are important to food safety and consumer health are:

  • Unwanted residues in the blood and meat:
    • Antibiotics
    • Growth Hormones
    • Heavy Metals
    • Pesticides
  • Drugs
  • Bacteria infection
  • Bruising
  • Disease of any nature

A visit to the government web sites indicates how important these issues are today.  The increase in globalisation of agriculture and intensification of livestock production has combined to increase the risks to consumers of contaminated product.

Traceability
The ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which develops voluntary international standards for products and services, defines traceability as the “ability to trace the history, application, or location of that which is under consideration.”  Under EU law, “traceability” means the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

Full traceability is becoming increasingly important in the major markets. With livestock, as can be seen, this is not simply from the slaughter plant to the point of sale, but also where born, where grown, what they have eaten throughout their lives, all medical history including treatments.  To achieve this records are required on such things as:

  • Unique Animal identification
  • Location of birth
  • Location during rearing
  • Feed fed throughout their life
    • To trace any potential contamination
    • Use of prohibited ingredients at any time
    • Supplying feed companies required to maintain full records of ingredient sources in each batch of feed
  • Health records
    • Diseases
    • Treatments
    • Vaccinations
  • Transport

Traceability is a way of responding to potential risks that can arise in food and feed, to ensure that all food products are safe to eat.  It is vital that when national authorities or food businesses identify a risk they can trace it back to its source in order to swiftly isolate the problem and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.  In addition, traceability allows targeted withdrawals and the provision of accurate information to the public, thereby minimising disruption to trade.

Past food crises such as dioxin contamination and BSE, have illustrated the particular importance of being able to swiftly identify and isolate unsafe foodstuffs in order to prevent them from reaching the consumer.  As at March 2013 the most recent incident is the Horsemeat found in processed foods labelled as beef and pork DNA found in halaal products.

Animal Welfare
The markets of Europe, Britain and North America are becoming increasingly concerned over animal welfare.  The British Domesticated Ostrich Association is working with DEFRA and the RSPCA to lay down basic standards here in Britain .

The WOA has created a set of welfare guidelins that can be used as a foundation for:

  • governments seeking guidance to develop their own codes
  • buyers wanting to set codes
  • certification organisations needing to learn more on ostrich

The gudielines are available at http://www.world-ostrich.org/woawelfare.htm.  We will amend and update as experience and data becomes more available.

Residues
The following quote from the EU web site:  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/index_en.htm illustrates the importance now placed on having the right procedures in place to ensure meat is free of residues.

Quote: “Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products - Introduction        

During their lifetime, animals may have to be treated with medicines for prevention or cure of diseases. In food producing animals such as cattle, pigs, poultry and fish this may lead to residues of the substances used for the treatment in the food products derived from these animals (e.g. meat, milk, eggs). The residues should however not be harmful to the consumer.

To guarantee a high level of consumer protection, Community legislation requires that the toxicity of potential residues is evaluated before the use of a medicinal substance in food producing animals is authorised. If considered necessary, maximum residue limits (MRLs) are established and in some cases, the use of the relevant substance is prohibited. The evaluation procedure is laid out in Council Regulation (EC) 2377/90 of 26 June 1990.

Directorate-General Enterprise is responsible for the rules governing medicinal products and the evaluation of residues of pharmacologically active substances used in veterinary medicinal products and for establishment of MRLs in the EU.  End Quote

Countries will have their own rules and regulations to monitor residues within the meat to protect their consumers.  In the EU, each country residue-monitoring plan is expected to follow the EU regulations:  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/control_en.htm.  This page provides information for those countries outside the EU wishing to supply the EU.  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/chemicalsafety/residues/third_countries_en.htm.

Residues in the meat result from inputs at the farm, and emphasise the importance of the correct controls on the farm.  These inputs include feed, water and all medication, internal and external.

Quality
The aspects of meat quality that are controlled at farm level are discussed in greater detailed in the WOA Factors Influencing Ostrich Meat Quality

  • Age of the animal
  • Nutrition
  • Management Systems

In meat quality, the Nutrition is the most important as the rations fed control the colour, taste, texture and odour of the meat.  They control the animal’s ability to handle stress, and the time required to bring an animal to slaughter.  The younger the animal is slaughter ready, the more tender the meat.

Management systems are also extremely important in controlling meat quality, because any failure in management can result in insufficient feed intake, insufficient water intake, disease control and stress levels.  Insufficient water intake, presence of disease or parasites and stress all result in reduced feed intake and impact on the quality of the meat.

The condition of the animal’s liver and colour of the fat are key indicators of the animals overall health and quality of the meat.  The feed the animal receives directly controls liver condition and fat colour.

Disease Control
The importance of good biosecurity to minimise the risks of disease cannot be over emphasised.  Historically Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Avian Influenza (AI) are probably the diseases that have caused the most disruption to supplies.

An outbreak of NCD or AI in ostrich and/or poultry can shut down movement locally and exports overnight.  AI ended the Israeli Ostrich industry, even though it was not present in their ostrich flock as they were totally dependent on the export market for meat sales as the local population are unable to eat ostrich meat.  Over the years NCD and AI has severely affected the South African industry because they had built their meat sales on the export market.   Australia has also experienced total closure to exports for an extended period because of NCD in poultry.

Chick Mortality has also caused many difficulties in continuity of supply:

Quote "Chick mortality is a serious destroyer with devastating and varied financial implications.   For the last two decades, in all surveys and opinion polls, the vagaries of chick mortality have been listed as enemy number one."  End Quote [1]

There are a number of reasons for chick mortality and these should be clearly understood to ensure correct management to minimise these losses.

Disease disrupts the supply to the market.

Reliability of Supply
Most restaurants set their menus for several months at a time (many for as long as 6 months) and once let down markets are harder to recover.  They cannot afford to to be let down in delivery.

Supermarkets will not tolerate empty shelf space.  Unreliable supplies will result in lost contracts.  Disease is one of the major causes of lack of supply, either as a result of export bans or as a result of high chick mortality.

One other major cause for lack of supply witnessed in Ostrich over the years is the unreliability of egg numbers laid and conversion of those eggs to day old chicks and then survival to slaughter.  Farm management systems must be in place to optimise the numbers of eggs laid and the conversion of those eggs to slaughter birds to ensure continuity and reliability of the supply to the market.

Conclusion:
The above illustrates just why marketing starts at the farm.

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[1] The South African National Agricultural Marketing Council “Report on the Investigation of the effects of Deregulation of the South African Ostrich Industry” page 33.

The Greatest Threat to our Industry

Newsletter No. 53 - Item 1

These words were written in 2007

A major buyer for Ostrich meat, who has always strived to obtain quality meat, made this statement:

The greatest threat to our industry is the poor quality ostrich meat we continually see

The buyer of a major supermarket chain has stated they are not interested in placing ostrich meat on their shelves again as a direct result of past negative experiences, proving just how true that statement is.  Those negative experiences included consumer resistance and the refusal of the supplier to change their methods of production to meet their customer needs. The supplier implied that the skin is the primary product and they were unable to make those changes, as the changes would have a negative effect on the skins.

A report of the “First International Ostrich Meat Congress” that took place at the end of February 1997 in Oudtshoorn made up item 2 in this newsletter - see below.  The ostrich mailing list was new and very active at the time.  Prior to going to this conference, members of the list were asked for their thoughts on the slow development of the markets, as it was an excellent channel of communication within the industry.

The issues list members had raised were discussed since they were clearly concerns of all those on the front line marketing and hoped would continue to be addressed.  10 years on, the industry faces the same challenges.  If anything, it is worse.

Item 2b discusses the dangers of bad consumer experiences.  Hearing major buyers complaining of the same thing 10 years later indicates that as an industry this serious threat remains a major issue that the industry continues to fail to address on a large enough scale.

Report of First International Ostrich Meat Congress – February, 1997
Published on the ostrich list on 3rd March 1997

Last week NOPSA - The National Ostrich Processors Association of South Africa (NOPSA) hosted The First International Ostrich Meat Congress in Oudtshoorn.  There were 120 delegates from 21 countries.  The week should be seen as a major event in the history of the Ostrich Industry.  It was not a week of delegates simply sitting and listening to a number of papers presented by various speakers - but was an opportunity for those attending to contribute in general discussion.

Three major areas were covered - The Meat (the individual muscles, their names, grades by tenderness etc.), Marketing Strategy and Hides.  The delegates were also given a tour of the Abattoir, Tannery and various farms in the area.

a. The Meat
As a result of the confusion in the market as to the names and degree of tenderness of different muscles it was agreed that an internationally accepted standard should be set.  An international subcommittee was formed.  Before we departed, the Catalogue numbers of each muscle and Latin names had been agreed.  The grading of several muscles and some trade names are still to be agreed.  There is to be a further meeting of the sub committee to me held in Europe to finalise these matters.

Dr. F. Mellet of Stellenbosch University reported on the pH values of the meat and the Anatomy of the muscles.  He noted that the Ostrich shows characteristics of Birds, Mammals and Reptiles.

The statement was made by one speaker that the industry is rapidly moving from the Hides as the primary product, with the meat the by-product to The Meat as the primary Product with the hides the by-product.

b. Marketing Strategy
A good deal of time was attributed to this important subject.   Some statistics were presented on current numbers of birds being slaughtered, number of approved export abattoirs, numbers of birds etc.  However, it was noted that these were compiled with limited data.   Statistics were also shown on the dramatic growth of the Turkey and Chicken Industries in relation to the total meat market.  It was noted that it would take 15million slaughter birds to satisfy 15% of the European market alone.  The conclusion: there is plenty of room for every one and great potential for growth.

There was an excellent presentation covering what the housewife/consumer is looking for, what makes the consumer buy the product and how to create an international awareness.  Great emphasis was also given to the fact that there will be many people over the next few years buying Ostrich for the first time.  If the product is not good and that first experience is a bad one - that consumer may well never try the product again.  It was noted that there has been an inconstancy in the product in the past, which must be addressed.  This inconsistency is most probably a combination of the variety of ages of slaughter birds, the effects of diet, variety in classification between countries of the various muscles etc.

The price, presentation and colour of the meat were also aspects mentioned.  The health aspects were seen as a major priority - the speaker highlighted the fact that we have a free range meat, that the market wants animals reared on feed free of meat source proteins, routine antibiotics, growth hormones etc.

An International Ostrich Association will be formed to promote the industry.  It will prepare the International Meat Buyers Guide along with other sales literature, videos etc.  It will generate and sustain general public awareness campaigns.   The funding will be a combination of levies, profit from sale of promotional materials and any other means that may seem appropriate from time to time.  Some of the funding will go towards research and development.  The levies will be collected by the National Associations - part to be handed across to the International Association with some retained by the National Associations to promote within their individual country as each country has its own unique culture.

Delegates were warned that any bad press or experience regarding Ostrich will reflect on the industry - the consumer does not think of where that Ostrich was - simply the name Ostrich.  It is essential to work together to ensure the quality and consistency of standards.

c. Ostrich Leather
Whilst this was primarily an Ostrich Meat Congress, this important product was certainly not ignored.  The current grading of Ostrich skins was covered in detail.  Mr. Kriek of the KKLK informed the delegates that the industry often complains that the grading is too kind to the producer - but it has been agreed to retain the standard for the next 2 years at least.  It was acknowledged that there are a number of new producers now in the market and there will be a learning curve to achieve the required quality.

Discussion took place on the effect of slaughter age on the hide.  It was acknowledged that the 10mth skin of a well-fed bird is very acceptable and that the 14mth slaughter age has arisen to satisfy the requirements of the feather trade.  There was considerable discussion on the potential effect on price of an increasing number hides and of lower grade skins possibly coming onto the market.  Examples were given of uses of these hides, which no other leather could compete with, therefore allowing the hides to retain a high value.  An analogy was made with the wine industry.  You will have your very high value wines, the plonks and many in-between – all made from the one product - the Grape.

All delegates visited the Tannery and were shown a large range of skins - of differing grades.  A good deal of excellent discussion took place between the delegates during this visit.

The Congress was closed by the South African Minister of Agriculture - Mr. D. Hanekom.  He passed on the message to the South African Industry that he offered his full support to the development of the industry.  He also announced that legislation is now going through to allow the Import and Export of genetic material.

Footnote:
Note the fact that this was 1997 and it was accepted then that skins from 10 month birds (42 weeks old) are acceptable and that the feather industry was driving the later slaughter.  Slaughter birds as late as 60 weeks is simply not commercially viable for a producer producing good quality meat.

2013: That footnote was published in 2007.  This article discussed a conference that took place in South Africa in 1997 just 3 years after the South African industry was deregulated and the early countries to import ostrich were facing the challenge from importing the foundation birds and transition to commercial production.