Safeguarding and developing our animal welfare work
Group–wide Animal Welfare Policy
Scandi Standard’s Group Live Operations Director has the overall responsibility for the Group’s animal welfare policy and improvement work. In each market, the local management and local individual in charge of living animals are jointly responsible for implementation and follow-up. Each production site has a designated animal welfare coordinator, and all staff who handle live chickens receive training in this area as part of their introduction.
For Scandi Standard, it is important to have a holistic view of animal welfare, where several different aspects are important and where a combination of different KPIs must be followed up to ensure good animal welfare. These aspects include the competence and commitment of growers, the quality of the newly hatched chicks, feed quality, pen environment, the opportunity for natural behaviour, breed, loading and transport, and stunning and slaughter.
Scandi Standard’s Animal Welfare Policy is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms of animal welfare and reflects our holistic approach to what is required for healthy chickens. The policy:
Stipulates that genetic modification of animals is not permitted
Defines space requirements and flock density limits
Stipulates that antibiotics must not be used for preventive purposes and never without veterinary approval
Stipulates that growth hormones must not be used
Stipulates that beak trimming is not permitted
Has requirements on responsible transportation, including limits on distance and time
Has requirements on pre-slaughter stunning
Foot health is an important indicator of animal welfare
The straw bed where chickens spend their time has a major impact on their health. Dry straw bedding makes life comfortable for the chickens, maintains their immune system and reduces the risk of spreading diseases. The quality of the straw bedding is checked by examining the condition of the foot pads, which is registered for each flock of chickens upon arrival at the slaughterhouse.
Outbreak of bird flu
Avian influenza (bird flu) is a viral disease found in wild birds that can spread to domestic birds, and outbreaks can affect egg and chicken producers. However, the virus is not thought to cause any serious symptoms in humans and consumers do not need to be concerned about whether chicken products are safe to eat. There have been outbreaks of bird flu in several of Scandi Standard’s domestic markets during the year, leading to extensive shutdowns in order to prevent wider transmission to new flocks.
Even when farms delivering to Scandi Standard are not directly impacted, farms within quarantine zones may be indirectly impacted. Local Scandi Standard teams work closely with concerned growers and relevant authorities to ensure that the right measures are implemented. This includes setting up zonal systems to guarantee disease control and prevent growers and the poultry industry from being hit harder than necessary.
Feed composition is an important part of our collaboration with the growers. Nutrient content and quality have a major impact both on the health of chickens and on the efficiency of feed use. Chickens are very good at converting feed into meat, and feed efficiency is a direct indicator of the quality of the feed, and how well the chickens are being cared for.
All feed is produced using carefully selected ingredients, with wheat and soy being major components. Our operations in Ireland have their own feed experts and local feed mill, while in other countries we work with external feed suppliers whom our growers purchase feed from.
The use of feed with the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in this case soy and corn, is widely discussed throughout the agricultural industry. Scandi Standard has chosen to adhere to local conditions and customer requirements and currently requires the use of GMO-free feed in Sweden and Norway, and organic chicken in Denmark.
Transition to local protein crops
In 2022, about 21.5 per cent or just over 120,000 tonnes per year of our chicken feed consisted of imported soy, mainly from South America, as well as smaller volumes from North America and Asia. Requirements for traceability and responsible production are defined by means of various third-party
certifications such as RTRS and ProTerra. In total, 75 per cent have some type of sustainability certification and it is only in Denmark that soy is yet to be 100 per cent certified. The long-term goal is to replace imported soy with other, local protein sources. This is because there are better options from both an environmental and an animal-welfare perspective, which at the same time promote local agricultural production. Since 2019, a strategic development project has been under way together with feed specialists to develop and test new feed mixes, where a significant part of the soy is replaced by locally grown protein sources, such as broad beans and peas. During the year, large-scale tests were conducted in Finland and Sweden, with positive results. Along with these initiatives, we also want to collaborate with feed producers to ensure that the soy that is purchased is traceable and sustainably produced. We can achieve this through dialogue and involvement in various initiatives, such as the Swedish Platform for Risk Crops.
Working systematically to lower antibiotics use
Increased antibiotic resistance is a global health challenge and we believe that Scandi Standard has an important role to play in minimising the use of antibiotics in food production, particularly when acquiring and integrating operations that are beyond the Nordic region into the Group.
We have a very strict policy on the use of antibiotics and other types of medication. In accordance with current Nordic legislation, antibiotics must not be used as a preventive measure in the rearing process, unlike in many other countries. Only sick animals may be treated, following a decision by a veterinarian. The use of antibiotics among Nordic growers is also very low – less than 0.2 per cent in 2022 – which is a sign of good animal husbandry.
We are at the forefront with our stance on antibiotics and our work methods and results in the Nordic countries. We have also made determined efforts to significantly reduce the use of antibiotics in our Irish operations, from around 70 per cent when the company was acquired in 2017, to about 40 per cent in 2022. Our performance deteriorated in 2022, due to the lower quality of day-old chicks and our limited possibilities of acting as advisors to growers during the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing local restrictions. A clear plan of action has been developed to turn the negative development and to improve the result in line with 2020 and 2021. Our long-term Group target is for the per centage of flocks treated with antibiotics to be lower than one per cent by 2030, and the foot score should be below five.
Ethics for transport and slaughter
Animal ethics are a high priority in the transport and slaughter of the chickens. The chickens are collected by trained staff in specially adapted vehicles.
Vehicles with temperature-controlled ventilation are used in countries with cold climates. Transport times can be kept short because we choose growers who are close to our production plants. The average transport time within the Group is about 1.4 hours – well below the legal maximum, which is 8 hours in Sweden, for example. Transport times and arrival times are planned and registered to ensure that all chickens are handled within set time frames, and that they are always slaughtered on the day of transportation. Upon arrival, the chickens are inspected both by our own staff and by an independent veterinary surgeon. The wings are checked as an indicator of how well loading was handled.
All chickens are stunned before slaughter. Controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) is used at most Scandi Standard production plants, as well as electrical stunning. CAS has a number of advantages in terms both of animal welfare and of meat quality.
• Animal welfare indicator (foot score)
• Use of antibiotics
• Transport mortality (DOA)
• Rearing mortality
• Scandi Quality Chicken Programme launched in Ireland
• Production scale testing of soy–free feed in Finland and Sweden