Biosecurity: Improving the Long-Term Sustainability of the Poultry Industries

April 30th, 2020

Profile of a chicken's face

On behalf of all of us at Global Food Partners, we hope you, your families, and your colleagues are well and safe in these challenging times.

Global Food Partners remains focused on our work (albeit remotely for the time being), helping food businesses implement and maintain high animal welfare and responsible sourcing policies and practices.

One of our focus areas is helping farmers enhance their biosecurity and animal health measures, in order to reduce the risk of disease outbreak on their farms, which can result in devastating financial losses and even public health crises.  The global COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how our interactions with animals can have far-reaching consequences. We hope this information is of use to you, and encourage you to share it with your networks.

The COVID-19 virus is believed to have been first transmitted to humans by a live animal at a “wet” market. This is not the first time we have seen a human health crisis as a result of a disease contracted from animals. Avian influenza (bird flu), for example was contracted directly from poultry and has resulted in hundreds of human deaths with 70% of these deaths reported in Asia. The 2009 “swine flu” outbreak, which is thought to have originated from intensive pig farms in Mexico, resulted in over 18,000 deaths around the globe in just one year. These outbreaks also caused enormous economic losses for farmers, and the loss of hundreds of millions of chickens and pigs in dozens of countries around the world.

One lesson learned through these pandemics is that animal health and human health are linked- improve biosecurity and animal health and you improve human health and food safety and security. Since infectious diseases can and do spread quickly on poultry farms, biosecurity and health management practices are paramount to operating a successful and healthy farm.

Layer hens, for example, are susceptible to a number of diseases, many of which are preventable. The vast majority (approximately 80%) of poultry diseases are carried onto the farm by contaminated people, equipment and vehicles. Contaminated water, chicks, litter and pest animals can also be risks.  The below are some key biosecurity practices that should be followed at all times, regardless of the type of housing system:

  • Limiting the number of people who access the farm
  • Fencing the farm with biosecurity signage
  • Wearing protective clothing and footwear when visiting a farm
  • Sanitising hands and footwear before entering and after exiting a shed
  • Disinfecting equipment regularly and keeping equipment on one farm only
  • Disinfecting trucks between farms


Profile of a chicken's face

As we’ve seen with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases like Avian Influenza, amidst human health crises, animal welfare crises can also arise. While biosecurity measures are key to mitigating disease risk, we strongly encourage all farms to have protocols for the event of an infectious disease outbreak, including appropriate methods of euthanasia.

Contingency plans need to guarantee that all animals are treated humanely in the event of a crisis, and should ensure the following:

  • Live animals should never be buried, left to starve or allowed to suffocate or overheat to death. This kind of treatment causes significant distress and suffering.
  • All farms should have access to the necessary staff and equipment required to carry out appropriate methods of euthanasia for large numbers of animals. All methods require planning, preparation and staff training to ensure a quick death.

Despite the importance of the above practices, recent research conducted on egg farms across China by Global Food Partners’ Senior Animal Scientist, Dr. Kate Hartcher, found that farmers identified the prevention and management of diseases and performing appropriate methods of euthanasia as two of the most difficult areas of production. Some producers identified disease as the single greatest challenge of farming.

COVID-19 is now a devastating reality around the globe and impacting all businesses. We’re taking this time to work together with food businesses and farmers to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and crises, and to make sure appropriate procedures are in place in the event they do occur. 

We are all in this challenge together and we at Global Food Partners look forward to continuing to work with you, our partners, to ensure we’re well-equipped moving forward.  Want to learn more about how we can work together? Send us a message here – we’d be happy to chat!

© Global Food Partners Inc.