Part 3 - Advanced technology
Currently there has been little demand to stop the growth of intensive farms and move to organic farming, said Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council. He said organic farms would take up much more space “If we tried to grow a billion birds a year, that would be a lot of land It’s a balancing act and it’s demand driven.”
“Intensive farms maintain high environmental, hygiene and welfare standards when they are run properly these are high health and welfare farms,” he argued. "The husbandry of the birds is the crucial element here. I think people think of hens roaming around a farm but that image is no longer the case – that’s not how chicken is farmed any more.”
Dr Zoë Davies, chief executive of the National Pig Association (NPA), the industry body for pig farmers, said farmers had to operate intensive systems to compete with cheap European imports.
Intensive farms have to meet many different regulations to get an Environment Agency permit, she said, and the biggest farms have excellent resources to maintain welfare standards, such as specialist vets on site.
She reiterated that there was a lack of consumer demand for free-range meat.
“People like the idea of a family farm,” she said. “They don’t know what an actual farm looks like."
A spokesperson for major poultry company Faccenda said the scale of big farms allowed them to afford to invest in green technologies.
“On large modern farms it’s easier to create and maintain the right environment, meaning that our animals are raised somewhere that is warm, dry and clean, and the risk of air borne diseases, such as avian influenza, is greatly reduced,” she said.
“Through investing in fewer, larger facilities we make the best use of scarce agricultural land and reduce the environmental impact of our farms. We have for example biomass energy on all of our farms.”