More animal welfare for fattening turkeys – Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir came up with this plan. In a key issues paper, the Green politician outlines future requirements for the approximately 2,000 farms in the sector. According to this, significantly fewer animals are to be kept in each barn in the future.
Depending on gender, 35 to 40 kilograms of live weight per square meter of available space are planned. So far, the limit set by the owners themselves in accordance with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Initiative (ITW) is 52 kilograms for fattening hens and 58 kilograms for fattening cocks, in other EU countries it is even 70 kilograms.
The poultry industry is now sounding the alarm in view of this significantly reduced stocking density. "The federal government's turkey plans make domestic meat almost unaffordable and torpedo animal welfare progress," says a statement from the Central Association of the German Poultry Industry (ZDG).
The industry representation relies on an impact assessment by the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture on behalf of the Association of German Turkey Producers (VDP). "The reduced efficiency of the production chain will result in a significant increase in the cost of turkey meat production," says the 14-page document that is available to WELT.
There is talk of a surcharge of up to 2.40 euros per kilogram of turkey breast for consumers. And most recently, the average price was already almost eleven euros per kilogram, as figures from the market researchers of the GfK Group show. At the same time, scientific studies cannot prove whether the specifications of the key issues paper lead to a higher level of animal protection, criticizes the Chamber of Agriculture.
So far, there are no specifications for turkey husbandry in the Livestock Husbandry Ordinance in Germany. The companies have therefore made voluntary agreements in the so-called federal benchmark paper, which were then even adopted by other EU countries, including Denmark. "In terms of animal welfare and sustainability, the German turkey producers are setting the pace in Europe," boasts the industry.
Bettina Gräfin von Spee, Chairwoman of the Turkey Producers Association, therefore finds clear words for the planned interventions by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BMEL): "The additional requirements would not only finally make domestic animal welfare meat a luxury item, but also mean the end of turkey farming in Germany .”
Von Spee refers to calculations by the Chamber of Agriculture, according to which the new husbandry specifications would lead to a loss of around 61,000 euros per fattening cycle for turkeys and 35,000 euros for turkeys. "No company can last long in such a loss-making business - and then there can be no more talk of investing in even more animal welfare."
The Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture also warns against emigration and dependency on other countries. "Should the paper result in a federal regulation, turkey meat production will migrate from Germany to other EU countries due to the economic cost disadvantages," says their analysis.
In particular, Poland, where a uniform stocking density of 57 kilograms applies, has significantly expanded its market position in Germany in recent years. But Italy and Spain, where there are no specific requirements for husbandry, are also highly competitive and have an increasingly high degree of self-sufficiency.
Every year there are almost twelve million animals in German turkey stalls, reports the ZDG. The degree of self-sufficiency thus reaches a value of a good 82 percent. The per capita consumption of consumers in this country was 5.3 kilograms in 2021. This makes it one of the highest in the European Union.
A representative survey conducted by Civey on behalf of the VDP shows that consumers primarily expect local goods. According to this, a good 44 percent of the 5,000 respondents prefer a regional origin for turkey meat, while 19 percent don't care about the place of production.
Nevertheless, according to the survey, three out of four Germans call for politicians to protect citizens from meat imports where the animal husbandry standards are unclear. In addition, 80 percent want the federal government to push for uniform standards in Europe.
The Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture also emphasizes such a necessity. "The objective of the key issues paper presented, to improve animal welfare, cannot be achieved through national legislation, but only through legally standardized husbandry specifications that apply across Europe in all EU member states," write the authors of their impact assessment. "The animal welfare responsibility of German politics does not end at our national borders," adds VDP chairwoman von Spee.
However, the BMEL remains firm, as the Federal Government's response to a small request from the CDU/CSU parliamentary group shows. According to the ministry, the current specifications for turkey fattening are no longer sufficient.
Under the current conditions, health problems and behavioral disorders relevant to animal welfare, such as feather pecking or cannibalism, would still occur when keeping and fattening turkeys, the reply letter said. Therefore, binding minimum requirements are necessary.
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