Archive for Regulations

Amendments to Ostrich Meat Trading with the EU

The EU published some important amendments relating to ratite meat importation into the EU earlier this year. You can read on line or download the changes that have been made - in your own language here.  The document is entitled: COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) No 166/2014 of 17 February 2014 amending Regulation (EC) No 798/2008 as regards certification requirements for imports into the Union of meat of farmed ratites for human consumption and the entries for Israel and South Africa in the list of third countries or territories.

This is a direct link to the English PDF version, which includes the updated “Model Veterinary Certificate" required for meat of farmed ratites for human consumption (RAT).

Both Israel and South Africa have experienced Avian Influenza outbreaks. The new regulations enable export of meat from approved closed farms. The regulations are extremely strict and designed to minimise risk of infection from the wild bird populations as ratites are farmed outdoors.

Meat from those ostrich farms that are within the 100km range of the coast may not be exported fresh to the EU and must undergo heat treatment prior to exporting.

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 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

Meat Quality

Newsletter No. 22 – January 2005 Item 4

The following is the opening statement of a document entitled "Factors Affecting Poultry Meat Quality" produced by Julie K. Northcutt a scientist from The University of Georgia:

Quote:  Before poultry meat quality is addressed, the term quality should be clearly defined as it relates to poultry. This is a difficult task, because quality is "in the eye of the beholder." For example, someone trying to sell a product might view its quality in terms of how well it sells and how much people are willing to pay for it.  However, this definition is incomplete, because it does not consider the product's character. Since people only buy what they like, the consumer's perspective of quality is more appropriate. When consumers buy a poultry product, cook and serve it to their families, they expect it to look, taste, and feel good in their mouth. If these characteristics do not meet the consumer's expectation, the product is considered to be of lower quality.

Whether or not a poultry product meets the consumer's expectations depends upon the conditions surrounding various stages in the bird's development from the fertilized egg through production and processing to consumption. end Quote

Figure 1  defines different aspects of food products that determine quality.

Figure 1 - Defining Aspects Influencing Meat Quality

The author goes on to discuss only Appearance, Texture and Flavour in this particular paper.   She interprets Appearance as Colour and Texture as Tenderness.   Figure 2 is a diagrammatic interpretation of Flavour perceptions.

Figure 2 - Flavour Perceptions (Adapted from Lawless 1991)


All readers I am sure will agree that the aspects discussed are identical for any meat product, it is only the characteristics unique to each specie that will differ.  The WOA Meat committee has already produced a document "Factors Influencing Meat Quality".  One of the many research projects that will be undertaken as part of the research and development projects will be more clearly defining the areas in these diagrams as they apply to ostrich.

For example, under appearance colour is known to be most important.  With Ostrich we currently suffer from meat that is very dark, from meat that can be white (white muscle disease) and from muscles that are often multi-coloured.  All of these things are very controllable with the right production methods, yet over the years I have heard producers, processors and marketers state that these things are normal.  I have listened to a  perceived expert at an Ostrich conference tell the audience that it is normal for the meat to darken very quickly on oxidation.   These negative aspects are controllable in all specie as they are symptoms of a poor diet, correct the diet and the symptoms disappear..

Common sense suggests that a piece of meat that is a good even colour, not too dark and brightens on oxidation is going to be far more attractive to the customer than meat that is either dark in colour, blackens on oxidation and/or may have unevenness of colour within the muscle.   As this paper states, production methods are an important part of the quality control/marketing program of all our products.

Attention to the detail of all these aspects are one step required to enhance the REVENUE and therefore profitability