Biodiversity – breeding choice for the markets of today and tomorrow

By Brendan Duggan, Aviagen® Ltd R & D Manage

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In this article, Aviagen® Ltd R & D Manager Brendan Duggan discusses the second of Aviagen’s Top 5 Commitments, Biodiversity, and how this commitment helps strengthen the success of Aviagen customers, the world’s poultry producers. At the same time, it contributes to the three Pillars of Sustainability1

Everyone likes the idea of choice. Choice gives consumers control over what they buy, and in any market, they want to purchase products that are adapted to their needs and conditions. The poultry industry is no different, and Aviagen is committed to providing our customers with this choice, so they can offer the right bird for the right market.

This offering of choice is only possible through the genetic diversity of our birds. To meet our goal to supply poultry now and in the future, our breeding programmes include more than 30 different lines that vary widely in terms of growth rate, feed efficiency, body composition, colour and other distinguishing attributes that benefit our customers and further the cause of sustainable development. In addition, we maintain populations that have not been selected since the early 70’s and early 90’s. Through the above, our contribution to Biodiversity, by means of our genetic diversity, is #2 in the lineup of our Aviagen Top 5 Commitments. Our diverse breed range is possible because Aviagen maintains a sustainable supply of high-generation chickens from parallel pedigree breeding programmes in the US and UK. Our lines are selected with broad and balanced breeding goals focused on health, welfare, environmental sustainability and economic efficiency in balance. These lines are then combined to produce parent breeding stock and finally commercial birds. 

Genetic diversity and sustainable development go hand in hand

Through a balanced breeding approach that promotes bird health, welfare and performance traits, we are strengthening all three pillars of Sustainability – Social, Economic and Environmental. 

Social

Because we keep large, diverse gene pools, we are able to offer a choice of birds that thrive in the world’s varying climates and production environments and that meet the ever-changing requirements of poultry consumers. Our diversity of lines ensures that our customers have access to healthy, efficient birds no matter in what environment they operate. Thus, they are better positioned to run successful enterprises and eliminate hunger within their communities. People of today are also more and more interested in transparency and animal welfare. They want to know where their food comes from. Thus getting assurance that the chicken they eat experienced good health and welfare, is an important part of social sustainability. At Aviagen, we breed populations that are genetically diverse in order to withstand disease challenges they may encounter. We also take care that the welfare traits shown in our populations are continually improving so consumers can be confident that they are part of a socially sustainable food system.

Economic

We are deeply committed to our customers, and the diversity of our genetic lines helps them remain successful in a highly competitive market, thereby furthering the Economic pillar. This variety allows us to quickly adapt to constantly changing markets to ensure our customers can always access birds that are ideally suited to the current market requirements. For example, our Rowan Range® brand of slower-growing breeds targets the alternative market segments, which are quickly developing in Europe and around the world. The Rowan Range provides bird options, which excel in new growing schemes such as the European Chicken Commitment and Global Animal Partnership (GAP).

Environmental

Sustainability means food production can meet the needs of a growing population in a way that minimises the impact on our planet. Due to balanced breeding, Aviagen offers a diverse portfolio of birds that all boast high feed efficiency, which keeps getting better each year. When birds convert their food more efficiently, less feed is needed to grow healthy, robust birds, and our earth’s limited land resources are protected. This genetic improvement of Aviagen genotypes in Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR), or the rate at which feed is converted to live body weight, yields a 1% annual reduction in the carbon footprint to the broiler industry level. At the same time, the FCR benefits result in saving vast areas of land that would otherwise be used for the production of animal feed and in reducing the environmental pollutants generated by each farm.

Making a difference for today and tomorrow

It is both rewarding and exciting to be part of a team of people who work daily to breed innovations that contribute to sustaining our earth for future generations. At the same time, the welfare and performance of our birds, coupled with the genetic diversity to meet a full and growing spectrum of market needs, ensures that producers will be able to put food on the tables of families in their communities for now and for years to come. 

1See our interactive Committed to Breeding Sustainability presentation for more on the SDGs prioritised by the International Poultry Council, and how we are putting them into practice through our Top 5 Aviagen Commitments https://eu.aviagen.com/assets/Sustainability/2021/index.html?global=1.