File picture: Steve Johnson

Johannesburg – EU counsellor for trade and economics Dessislava Choumelova has expressed concern over SA’s chickens.

Choumelova was briefing the portfolio committee on trade and industry at Parliament on Tuesday.

Choumelova said there are serious concerns about South Africa’s ability to monitor the use of prohibited medicines and growth hormones in poultry and other animal species.

On Wednesday, the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) said South African broiler producers have long committed to provide safe and high quality foods that promote human and animal wellbeing.

“We are committed to the three pillars of sustainability being food security, a self-sufficient society and to the balance of nature,” the association says.

It explains, producers therefore subscribe its SAPA’s Code of Conduct.

“There are no growth hormones available for use in poultry anywhere in the world and therefore also not in South Africa. No growth hormones are registered under any of the two main statutory bodies governing stock remedies … for use in poultry production – neither orally, nor through injection routes.”

As a result, SAPA says, no one can use hormones in poultry in South Africa and no one does.

“The allegations by the EU seem designed to cast false aspersions as to the practices of local producers. In any event, most of the medicines we do use were developed in the EU or the US and are merely registered in South Africa. What the EU uses is generally what we use.”

SAPA adds advances in the growth performance of the modern broiler chicken have been achieved through the genetic selection of superior poultry stock coupled to advances in animal nutrition aimed at optimising the performance of the birds.

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There has been a 50 percent improvement in feed use efficiency and a 400 percent increase in growth rate over the last 60 years in broilers, it says.

Bird management practices such as sanitation, lighting, ventilation, temperature, space and water have also been aligned with modern genetics and farming methods, and together with veterinary approved vaccines and poultry health medication, bird welfare and growth rates are optimised without the use of growth hormones, it asserts.

“We are a better producer than most EU countries and a cheaper producer than all of them. Perhaps that is why they wish to deflect from the truth.”