Ireland should become the poultry breeding centre of Europe, according to former Moy Park director, Eric Reid.

He made these comments while addressing the 2023 Poultry Industry Education Trust annual conference. The event was held this week at the Loughry campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Co. Tyrone.

Reid made his assertion on the basis of Ireland’s predisposition to Atlantic winds for most of the year.

“As a consequence, the potential impact of diseases that could significantly damage our poultry sector is relatively small,” he said.

“Ireland is a natural quarantine station for the world.”

Reid noted that Scotland and many parts of the UK no longer have a meaningful poultry sector on the back of the threat posed by wind-borne diseases coming in from mainland Europe.

Poultry sector

The former Moy Park director reflected on his 60-year career to date within the industry during the conference.

He specifically highlighted the role of vaccines as a disease prevention measure within the poultry sector.

“Virology is a science that continues for the poultry industry as a whole in a more than meaningful way,” he said.

Reid also confirmed the tremendous strides made by the broiler sector in securing sustained improvements in bird performance over the last number of years.

“In the early days of the broiler industry, it took growers 80 days to produce a 4lb chicken. Today, this can be achieved in 33 days,” he explained.

“During the same period, feed conversion ratios have fallen from 2.8:1 to 1.4:1.”

Reid said that he believes passionately that the poultry sector must be allowed to further growers into the future.

“The challenge of food security makes this an absolute necessity,” he said.

“Directly after the second world war, there were two billion people on this planet. Today this figure stands at eight billion. And we are heading towards a figure of 10 billion people.

“All these people will need to be fed. The poultry industry represents a production and processing model which other food and farming sectors should follow.

“When I joined the poultry sector, chicken was the third most popular form of meat eaten around the world. Today it is ranked at number one,” he added.

He believes this is because consumers recognise the health and taste attributes of chicken and that it also represents tremendous value for money.

“Poultry has always been a tremendous industry to work in. And this will not change as the sector looks to the future,” he concluded.