Transparency, communication and engagement with society

by Tim Burnside - Global Manager of Welfare, Sustainability and Compliance for Aviagen Group


Transparency, communication and engagement are the Aviagen’s powerful tools to achieve supply chain and industry success.

Late US President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” Since then, the distance between those producing and consuming food has only grown.

“Transparency, communication and engagement” is Aviagen’s corporate Commitment #5, and it is one we believe is crucial in our road toward sustainability and bridging the gap between producers and consumers: we are dedicated to connecting with all players in the supply chain and with the global communities we serve. Having ongoing dialogues is important, as, although the distance between consumers and farming may have widened, they do want to know that their food is produced in a responsible way and feel good about what they eat. Current times add an extra concern to their plate, with global supply chains vulnerable due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, Avian Influenza outbreaks and political and economic pressures. “Transparency, communication and engagement” are crucial in our support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The continuous improvement of industry innovations and infrastructure (SDG #9) is the basis of our commitment to providing society with healthy, affordable and safe protein. SDG #4, Quality Education, represents our commitment to sharing the new insights and contributing to the development and training of current and future professionals, as understanding the best ways of working with animals in their care is crucial for both their well-being and their performance. Together with our fellow stakeholders in the chain we aim to understand what motivates stakeholders across society and communicate that everyone in poultry has a role to play and talents to contribute, and this synergism serves to strengthen our entire industry and bring us one step closer to achieving our shared goals.

Members of the global poultry community

From our perspective, the hand on the “plough” in the Eisenhower quote is everyone involved in the global poultry supply chain and the societies they serve. In other words, each and every one of us plays a role in getting healthy chicken meat to individuals and families in urban and rural communities throughout the world. That includes our customers and us – the world’s poultry producers – as well as international policy makers, government agencies and poultry industry associations. It also involves those responsible for the transportation of this valuable food source: airlines, freight forwarders, hauliers, export and logistics personnel and more.

Communicating for better sustainability, health and welfare

It is important for the people and teams in the poultry community to stay connected with each other and with people in their societies. “Transparency, communication and engagement” impacts multiple facets of economic, environmental and social sustainability, as well as animal health and welfare. For example, when we share our latest findings related to bird management and care with our customers through schools, webinars, meetings and literature, bird health and wellbeing can be improved. This valuable knowledge, combined with our balanced breeding, supported by good care and nutrition, ensures bird feed efficiency is optimised. This is not only good for the profitability of our customers, but also makes poultry production much gentler on the environment. Staying connected with people in societies, listening to their needs and using their input as a developmental foundation of our breeding programmes is key to our contribution to social sustainability.

Engaging with future professionals

The future of poultry production depends on our ability to attract and retain bright and creative talent with a passion for making a difference. Aviagen fosters relationships with educational establishments, because they are our connection with the next generation of poultry people. Our goal is to share our passion, and demonstrate that a career in poultry can make a difference by helping to feed the world with nutritious, affordable chicken meat, while working in an ethical way that promotes animal welfare and sustains the environment. To encourage younger generations and introduce them to the exciting world of poultry, we offer scholarships, sponsorships and internships. We make financial contributions to university facilities and to the development of tools that will aid with education. In addition, our specialists regularly speak at industry and customer meetings and engage with students at career fairs.

Our strategic alliances with universities not only let us get to know poultry students, but they also offer collaboration opportunities with great industry minds. New innovations and scientific advances are often born out of these alliances.

Engaging with society at large

As a breeding company, we aim to work in close cooperation with our customers and poultry associations in supporting them with data and information, and of course, the right breed for when ‘tomorrow’ becomes ‘today’. For the longer term, we are very eager to understand how the future will evolve, as we need to be ready with the right bird at the right time and place.

We cannot stress enough the multiplicity of benefits we gain by allying with our industry colleagues – people who are part of associations, government and academia. When we actively participate with organisations such as the International Poultry Council (IPC), International Air Transportation Association (IATA), European Forum for Farm Animal Breeders (EFFAB) as well as local poultry associations we have a voice in regulatory decisions that are made. Through these we can promote good practices that protect the welfare of birds and further strengthen the cause of sustainability.

And, by connecting with associations, as well as governments, agriculture ministries and airlines, we can also help keep the supply chain open when challenges strike. Throughout the ups and downs of the Covid pandemic, we have seen border closings, travel restrictions, flight cancellations and limited trade routes. The organisations I mentioned above have contributed to keep major trade routes open.

The development from concept to new tools for the breeding programme, for example the use of 3D imaging technology in live birds to evaluate aspects of health and production, required transferring equipment and know-how from a medical to poultry settings – not a straightforward process! Working closely with universities and other scientific collaborators provides the opportunity to investigate the latest innovations and advice on how to develop these tools or how to refine our management techniques to get the best results, even in the most challenging of environments. Through peer-reviewed articles we communicate these findings on welfare, environment, health, and production improvements to industry stakeholders.

Strength in numbers

As a poultry breeding company, Aviagen is proud to be part of a large global community of people who care about the societies we serve. We have learned that, when we work with other stakeholders, together we have the power to promote the sustainable development of poultry production and thus provide our societies with a healthy source of protein for today and for years to come.