Poultry Industry Articles


Justification for “Slow-Growing” Broilers?

Apr 5, 2017


Dr. Tatijana Fisher at the University of Kentucky reviewed Management of Slow-Growing Broilers for Profit at the 2017 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention.

Her paper noted the demand by boutique supermarkets and specific food service companies which have been active in promoting “welfare” for slow-growing broilers. 

Much of the publicity generated by these companies and their justification is not based on scientific fact and in many cases includes gross distortions. 

These include an exaggeration claiming a 90 percent plus prevalence rate of myodystrophy (“wooden breast”, “striped muscle”), and high levels of pododermatitis and locomotory dysfunction in commercial broilers.


At the outset it is clear that activists promoting slow-growing broilers appeal to emotion and in many cases have less concern over the well-being of flocks than in opposing and vilifying intensive broiler production.

Reviewing data documented by the National Chicken Council, in 1955 broilers required 70 days to achieve a weight of 3.6 pounds with a feed conversion of 3:1.  In December 2016, 145 complexes subscribing to an industry database collectively producing 649 million straight-run broilers achieved 6.6 pounds in 48 days with a feed conversion ratio of 1.85.  Selective breeding over successive generations has increased the proportion of breast meat in response to consumer demand.

Europe has seen an increase in demand for alternatives to conventional white-feathered high-yield broilers. Dr. Fisher estimates that 25 percent of production in the Netherlands involves slower growing breeds contrasted with slower adoption in the UK of less than 10 percent of broilers produced.  The EU has an affluent population which is reacting to misinformation but is apparently willing to pay for alternatives to conventional broilers.

A projection of the impact of converting 30 percent of current U.S. production of approximately 165 million birds per week to slow-growing broilers illustrates the sacrifices in sustainability which would occur with retrograde genetics.  An Elanco Animal Health simulation model estimated that the cost to the broiler industry would exceed $9 billion annually. This would require almost doubling available broiler housing and feed consumed relative to conventional birds.

Dr. Fisher presented data comparing trials conducted at the University of Kentucky on Cornish-cross male and Red-ranger male with respect to live bird parameters.  Cornish-cross males achieved an average daily gain of 58.3 g which exceeds the unrealistic standard of 50 g per day growth rate set by the Global Animal Partnership. In contrast Red-Ranger males attained an average growth rate of 40 g, which was very highly significantly less than the Cornish-cross males.  The feed conversion of the Cornish-cross males was 1.9 compared to 2.2 for the Red-Ranger males.  There were also very highly significant differences in carcass composition.  Chilled yield (without giblets) of Cornish-cross males was 74 percent compared to 68 percent for Red-Ranger males.  Boneless and skinless breast yield was 31 percent for Cornish-cross males compared to 20 percent for Red-Ranger males.  Cornish- cross males yielded 30 percent as whole legs compared to 34 percent from Red-Ranger males. Based on economic realities, Dr. Fisher appropriately concluded that slow-growing strains would only be suitable for specialized whole-bird markets. 

Cognizant of the demand, although limited for slow-growing strains, Aviagen has made available the Rowan Ranger™ based on their extensive gene pool.  Claimed specifications for the strain include 4.4 lb. live weight at 47 days for females and 44 days for males with respective feed conversion efficiencies of 1.90 and 1.85. Whole body yields (without giblets) average 66 percent for both males and females with males yielding 19 percent breast meat, 12 percent thighs and 10 percent drums.  These values exceed the data for the Red-Ranger male evaluated by Dr. Fisher.

Despite the initial publicity generated by Whole Foods Market which initiated and essentially motivates the Global Animal Partnership (See Commentary in April 5th Edition of CHICK-CITE) which has emerged as a certifying agency for alternative broilers, the cost of product will only be appropriate to an affluent demographic.  It appears that Panera Bread, Chipotle and some food service suppliers including Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo which have all been prominent in promoting “welfare gimmicks” in the interest of image and product differentiation will be involved in promoting slow-growing broilers. On March 3rd West Liberty Foods a turkey producer purchased Crystal Lake Foods in Arkansas specifically to produce slow-growing broilers for the emerging but limited niche market.

Based on a differential in cost of production attributable to retrograde genetics, non-sustainability and suboptimal parts yield, slow-growing broilers will not be expected to displace any appreciable proportion of the conventional broiler industry in the U.S.

CHICK-CITE is of the opinion that producers should satisfy market demand wherever it exists provided that products are relatively sustainable and provide a margin. Choice is a cornerstone of a market economy. We take exception to those promoting alternatives to conventional product by dissemination of disinformation degrading the image of modern broilers and by extension their producers. We are also opposed to the principle of an affluent minority, irrespective of their motives, imposing their unsubstantiated and frequently erroneous views on the marketplace, resulting in increases in cost to middle and low-income consumers.


Broiler Production in China

Apr 5, 2017


USDA GAIN Report CH17005, dated February 1st provides a best-possible estimate of broiler meat production, consumption and trade in China.  At the outset it is noted that the poultry meat market in China comprises conventional white-feathered broilers mainly produced in Northern (Shandong, Guangdong and Jiangsu) Provinces, representing 53 percent of estimated 2017 production. 


Traditional “yellow birds” represent 28 percent of output, with hybrid white and yellow-mixed strains accounting for approximately 9 percent and culled egg-layers 10 percent of consumption.  White-feathered birds are marketed predominately through supermarkets and QSRs.  Traditional yellow birds, although available in supermarkets are sold in live-markets even in the major metropolitan areas.  In addition to broiler meat, ducks are available both for restaurant and domestic segments but are predominantly sold in live-markets.

For 2017 it is estimated that production of all broiler meat in China will amount to 11.25 million metric tons, approximately 10.6 percent less than in 2016.  This is attributed to a decline in the availability of day-old broiler chicks due to embargos placed on importation of grandparent stock from the U.S. and the EU.  The stated reason for embargos was allegedly the danger of introduction of avian influenza. Major international breeders have attained Compartment status for their flocks assuring freedom from AI infection which in any event is not transmitted through chicks.

The embargo on breeding stock is patently fallacious given the endemic status of avian influenza involving many strains in China where clinical highly pathogenic avian influenza is suppressed by administration of vaccines.  It is suggested that the real reason for embargos against importation of parent stock relates to pressure on primary breeders to supply great- grandparent generation stock which would provide China with a greater degree of independence and the possibility of developing indigenous competing brands. 

The effect of restriction on importation of grandparent stock can be noted by the decline in importation of grandparents from 1.7 million units in 2014 to 580,000 units in 2016.  Following the ban on the U.S. which supplied 90 percent of breeding stock in 2014, China has imported from flocks operated by primary breeders in New Zealand and Spain.  Shandong Yisheng recently concluded a deal with Hubbard of France to import great-grandparent stock confirming the motivation of the strategy imposed by the Central Government.  In the interim, parent and grandparent flocks have been molted with proportionately lower egg production and hatchability in the second cycle.  Reduction in broiler output in China is regarded as a self-inflicted injury.

In 2017 it is projected that China will import 600,000 metric tons of poultry meat but in counter- trade will export 350,000 tons with the net differential representing only two percent of production. It is estimated that 80 percent of the limited exports of poultry meat in specialty presentations from China are as specialty presentations destined to Japan and Hong Kong and are produced in joint-venture enterprises.

Given domestic 2017 consumption of 11.25 million metric tons for a population of 1.35 billion, per capita consumption is in the region of 8.3 kg.  It is noted that with increased affluence, urban consumers favor beef and seafood over chicken.

In 2013 prior to the unjustified nationwide embargo, the United States supplied 306,000 metric tons of broiler meat representing 57 percent of Chinese imports.  In 2016 the U.S. did not supply any broiler meat with Brazil dominating imports with 86 percent of 569,000 metric tons, a 44 percent increase over the previous year due to reduced domestic supply.  Retail prices across China averaged $2.75 per kilogram ($1.25 per pound) in 2016, approximately six percent higher than in 2015 reflecting the growing disparity in supply relative to demand.

Over and above the unjust nationwide ban on U.S. broilers allegedly due to the presence of avian influenza, China placed a 70 percent ad valorem anti-dumping duty on U.S.-origin broiler products.  This action was regarded as illegal by the World Trade Organization but China has not removed the duty.  China also rejects the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) principle of regionalization restricting embargos to specific counties or states where LPAI and HPAI have been diagnosed.

Generally embargos should expire 90 days after the last diagnosed case of AI was eradicated and all affected premises decontaminated.  Rules imposed by China require a specific application to resume exports. Delays associated with permission may extend over years during which time a subsequent outbreak of either LPAI or HPAI may occur resetting the clock!


Sampling for Mycotoxin Analysis

Apr 5, 2017

     Testing for mycotoxins is a complicated process that generally consists of three steps:
  1. Several small samples are taken at random from the lot and composed into one larger “lot sample”.
  2. The entire lot sample is ground to a fine particle size and a representative subsample, the “analytical sample”, is removed for analysis.
  3. The mycotoxins are extracted from the analytical sample and finally quantified.

However, there is variability associated with each of the three steps even when accepted test procedures are used. Sampling has been shown to be the largest source of variation associated with the mycotoxin test procedure in several studies. For example, nearly 90% of the errors associated with aflatoxin testing can be attributed to sampling.

The high levels of sampling errors are due to two main factors; low concentration of mycotoxins in a given sample (the “ppb-problem”) and the uneven distribution in the lot. Effective sampling is crucial for replicable mycotoxin results as the mycotoxin analysis costs time and money.


Example of a sampling program:  4 samples/month
Corn Volume:  4,000 tonnes/month
Volume:  20 containers per week = 1,000 tonnes/week
1st Sample: inside container
(Association of American Feed Control Officials. Inc. Second Edition. May 1.2000)

  • Collect: 11 probes/container of 50 tonnes
  • Volume/probe: 0,5 kg
  • Blend all 11 samples and collect 1 final sample

2nd Sample: composite sample of 20 containers

  • 1 sample/container x 20 containers = 20 samples/week
  • Blend all 20 samples
  • Grind all 20 samples

3rd Sample:1 kg of ground corn

  • Quarter:
  • Send to lab: 0,5 kg/week.
  • Hold: 0,5 kg/week quartering sample points



Mar 29, 2017


More than a century ago, plant pathologists in Europe and the United States associated wheat head blight with infections by Fusarium graminearum which produces deoxynivalenol (DON) and Nivalenol (NIV).

During World War II, consumption of over-wintered grain contaminated by F. sporotrichioides and related species caused alimentary toxic aleukia and deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the former Soviet Union.


During the 1970s in Japan, F. graminearum caused severe epidemics of akakabi-byo (red mold disease) on green wheat and other grains.

People who ate products containing these contaminated grains typically developed nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hemorrhages, anemia, and other symptoms of trichothecene toxicosis.

In 1972, Japanese scientists successfully identified DON and NIV in grain infected with F. graminearum. Japanese researchers named it “Rd-toxin”. Shortly thereafter, the same mycotoxin was isolated from maize associated with emesis in pigs and given the name vomitoxin.



Jul 15, 2016


In a press release dated July 11th, USPOULTRY presented the results of a series of experiments conducted by Dr. Haroldo Toro of Auburn University (Project number BRU 004). 

The study was conducted using funds approved for emergency research related to the outbreak of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza in the spring of last year. The study to inactivate Avian Influenza virus in feed is the first of a series of projects completed using fast-track funding.


The series of four trials was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of Termin-8® on inactivation of an H5 strain of LPAI virus added to feed under controlled experimental conditions.  The secondary objective was to demonstrate the residual effect of Termin-8® on inactivation of AIV in feed. 

The model used by Dr. Toro comprised contamination of a layer feed with a low- pathogenic AIV, strain H5N9 isolated from turkeys in Wisconsin in 1968.  The presence of virus in feed was identified by an extraction process followed by treatment with antibiotic to destroy bacteria and then centrifugation and filtration.  The presence of influenza virus was identified by inoculating processed supernatant into embryonated specific pathogen-free eggs with subsequent demonstration of viral RNA in allantoic fluid using RT-PCR.

In the first experiment to determine effectiveness of Termin-8® it was demonstrated that the concentration of virus was reduced after 4 hours following inoculation of feed previously treated with Termin-8® at the rate of 2 pounds per ton.  In a second trial to evaluate survival of AIV in either feed or corn, it was demonstrated that relatively high levels of virus were maintained following inoculation for 24 hours with a decline to undetectable levels after 48 hours.

Termin-8® effectively reduced the concentration of AIV in feed within one hour by a level of 6 LOG10 compared to untreated feed.  After six hours there was a significant difference in concentration of AIV between the treatment and control with the feed devoid of Termin-8® showing levels ranging from 4 to 8 LOG10 per gram of feed.

The residual effect of Termin-8® was evaluated by adding the compound to feed seven days before inoculation with AIV.  Control and treated feed were assayed for the presence of AIV after six hours.  Concentration of virus in the untreated control feed ranged from 2 to 8 LOG10 program compared to undetectable level in the feed treated with Termin-8®.

The series of trials conducted by Dr. Toro demonstrated the effectiveness of Termin-8® in suppressing AIV in feed. In addition the compound was effective for at least seven days after being added to feed.

Although feed is not regarded as a primary route of introducing AIV onto farms, a coordinated program of protection should include suppression of possible transmission associated with delivering contaminated feed to susceptible flocks.


Alltech Ideas Conference

Jun 17, 2016


Guest Article

Aidan Connolly, Chief Innovation Officer for Alltech is deeply involved in issues relating to replacement of antibiotic additives in diets for monogastric livestock. The guest article was presented at The Alltech Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, during late May 2016. Given the topicality of antibiotic withdrawal the article is reproduced for the benefit of subscribers as there are numerous talking points relevant to our interaction with customers.


Seven questions you wanted to know about antibiotics in animal feed ...but were afraid to ask!

Question 1: Why are antibiotics in animal feed in the first place?

Antibiotics have been good for the world. They have been instrumental in allowing humanity to enjoy a standard and quality of life unimagined prior to their discovery. Initially, antibiotics allowed us to control life-altering and fatal diseases in humans.

Secondarily, they have facilitated the development of a modern, safe and efficient agricultural system which produces food economically, affordably and plentifully to the most of the seven billion people on the planet. 

When farmers began putting antibiotics in the feed of animals in the 1950’s they did so initially because it resulted in lower mortalities but quickly they also noted their animals grew faster, requiring less feed. Veterinarians later observed better intestinal health and less inflammation during autopsies and surmised that the improved animal performance was most likely due to the more efficient absorption of nutrients in the intestine of those animals.

Question 2: Where does resistance come from?

The simple definition of resistance is “the ability of microbes to resist the effect of antibiotic drugs” and the mechanisms by which bacteria become resistant and pass on that resistance to other bacteria are relatively well known. Bacteria adapt very quickly to the environment, so when antibiotics are used continuously, the bacteria they are meant to kill can adapt, survive and replicate making it extremely difficult to kill the remaining bacteria. Resistance can develop through selective pressure (that is, when antibiotics kill some but not all of a bacterial group); mutation or gene transfer. These three mechanisms can also combine, as when bacteria not only become resistant to antibiotics, but also start to pass that characteristic on to other bacteria present in the gut. 

There are many sources of resistance with examples in humans and animals, including the inappropriate use of drugs or inadequate diagnostics in hospitals or veterinary situations, the use of antimicrobial soap in bathrooms, the use of zinc oxide or copper sulfate in the diets of animals, and the use of chlorine in water of humans and animals alike. Scientists have demonstrated that these and any substances that create pressure on a microbial population lead to changes similar to the passage of resistance. 

Overall, humans are the main source of resistance, due to the misuse of antibiotics, not using them for the time period recommended by their doctors, or not using the recommended dose. Hospitals and homes for the elderly have become hot spots of resistance, which puts older people, very young people and immune comprised people who are the least capable of fighting off infection without antibiotics at the highest risk.

It is clear that antibiotic use in humans is not uniform. For example, looking at a map of the U.S., antibiotic misuse per 1,000 people tends to be concentrated in the eastern part of the country rather than the west, with over-prescription particularly prevalent in the south and mid-west. Recent studies indicate that an average of 506 antibiotic prescriptions are administered per 1,000 doctor visits, while experts concluded that just only slightly more than half of these prescriptions were actually necessary or appropriate.

In animals, resistance works the same way, and the passage of resistance from animals to humans can occur through contact with live animals or environmental contamination. (In 2005, the CDDEP found that when antibiotics are fed to animals 90% go through urine and 75% were found in feces; more recently antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found in water systems, waste treatment and in dust carried by air.) It also seems to be possible for resistance to be passed through the consumption of meat, milk and eggs from contaminated animals (for example, a U.S. study found that 53% of grocery chicken contained antibiotic resistant E. coli). 

Farmers are often irritated that activists focus on antibiotics in animal food, when the majority of resistance come from human misuse/overuse/abuse, but the general public finds it easy to agree with Prince Charles (speaking to the Royal Society in London) when he said, “I find it difficult to understand how we can continue to allow most of the antibiotics used in farming, many of which are also used in human medicine, to be administered to healthy animals.”


AdWeek Rates Grocery Stores

Jun 15, 2016


Consulting group C Space recently published the results of a survey on customer attitudes towards grocery stores in AdWeek. Charles Trevail, CEO of C Space stated “The grocery industry is an increasingly crowded space, and every new innovation brings consumers more choices.” 

He added “this data proves that, rather than relying on short-term tactics like discounts and reward programs, building loyalty depends on a grocery retailer's capacity to intuitively ‘get’ its customers."


In the study, consumers responded according to the following percentages:

  • 43 percent did not wish to feel “ripped off”
  • 41 percent expected consistent customer service
  • 32 percent appreciated rewards for loyalty
  • 24 percent desired products that fit needs and lifestyles

Positive mentions were accorded the following five stores with the percentage responses:

  • Trader Joe’s (90.4%)
  • Wegmans (92.7%)
  • Publix (90%)
  • Hy-Vee (87.5%)
  • Sprouts (85.7%)

Negative mentions involved:

  • Shaws (88.5%)
  • Walmart (81.4%)
  • Star Market (77.8%)
  • Local (79.5%)

The studies conducted by C Space developed a CQ Score which incorporates both positive and negative mentions.  The leading stores with their CQ Scores were:

  • Trader Joe’s (7.3)
  • Wegmans (7.0)
  • Publix (6.7)
  • Hy-Vee (6.6)

Whole Foods scored 3.6 and Target 2.7. Aldi was slightly above “neutral” with a score of 1.2.  Sam’s Club scored 0.3.  Stores with high negatives included Shaws -6.2, Walmart -4.9, Food Lion and Albertsons both -3.0.

In surveying consumers, it was determined that loyalty is influenced by perceptions of the brand and included: (for Trader Joe’s)

  • Response by customers to service provided by happy employees
  • Colorful labeling in stores
  • Limited selection to facilitate shopping but with items constantly in stock

Costco customer appreciated helpful employees to assist in navigating a large store with a wide range of items (which they continuously move around! -Ed.)

The response relating to positive attributes among the C Space survey is obviously influencing companies such as Wal-Mart Stores which has embarked on a program of reinvention according to President and CEO Doug McMillon. Associates (a euphemism for low-paid workers) will henceforth be required to provide a higher level of service.  Speaking at the 46th Annual Shareholders’ Meeting, McMillon stated “as the World becomes more digital it will be the humanity of Walmart that differentiate us and wins with customers.”  He added “Our investments in education and training, store structure, wages, hours and sales-floor technology are to support and enable customers to be served”.

Clearly given the results of recent consumer surveys including the C Space study, Walmart and Sam’s have a lot of work to do to enhance customer satisfaction and perceptions.


Is the Turkey Industry Vulnerable Over On-Farm Euthanasia?

May 18, 2016


In this age of intrusion videos, the actions of growers represent the greatest vulnerability with respect to intrusion videos and consequential adverse publicity.  On-farm euthanasia is an area of concern given the range of procedures that are recognized by the National Turkey Federation. 

The NTF Guidelines make reference in turn to the 2013 Edition of the AMVA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals as a precedent.  


The NTF recognizes the following techniques for euthanasia:-

  • Cervical dislocation manually for small birds.  Turkeys under 10 pounds in weight require handling by a trained contractor. Over 10 pounds in weight an instrument such as the Koechner shear is effective if correctly applied but the physiological effect in relation to welfare has been questioned.
  • Gas euthanasia using carbon dioxide is used regularly for breeders but requires investment in equipment, the purchase of a gas cylinder and careful supervision of trained personnel to be humane and effective.
  • Blunt force trauma to the head is frequently used and when applied by a trained person results in instantaneous loss of consciousness.  Unfortunately the aesthetic aspect is unacceptable especially when viewed on a video with a deceptive sound commentary.  It places the turkey industry in the same category as clubbing seals and has an extremely negative connotation among reasonable consumers. Mechanical trauma can be achieved using a captive-bolt system such as the Bock Industry’s TED device.  Capital investment is required and instruments must be regularly cleaned and maintained to ensure effective function.

There are obviously advantages and disadvantages to any selected method.  To be effective, growers require training, and regular recertification to ensure competence.  A high level of supervision by service persons is necessary to ensure that crippled birds are regularly culled and euthanized in accordance with company procedures.  Leaving crippled birds to die in a house is encountered during routine farm visits and this neglect potentially exposes the integrator to adverse publicity.

In reviewing the procedures to ensure that captive-bolt euthanasia is effective, equipment must be regularly maintained. One integrator issues the devices only when flocks are 12 weeks of age.  At this time the service person reviews operating procedures and recertifies the contractor.  When the flock is depleted, the captive-bolt equipment is returned to a central store for decontamination, and service before reissue.  Simply assigning a device to a contractor on a permanent loan basis will result in degraded operation and in many cases leads to a reversion to blunt force euthanasia using a hammer or some other object.

Euthanasia is a necessary but unfortunate component of growout but requires attention both by the contractor and service person to avoid the possibility of an embarrassing posting on YouTube or in some cases even criminal action for animal cruelty.


Biomin Mycotoxin Survey

Apr 13, 2016

Dr. Raj Murugesan, Technical and Marketing Director of Biomin America Inc. has complied the results of the Company’s mycotoxin survey of U.S. 2015 corn harvest.

The entire report is posted as a sponsored article for the information of subscribers.  Among the six mycotoxins assayed (aflatoxin, fumonisin, zearalenone, deoxynivalenol {DON}, T-2 and ochratoxin) a detectable level of DON was present in 79 percent of the 381 corn samples examined and fumonisin was present in 59 percent. 

Dr. Murugesan emphasized the co-occurrence of more than one mycotoxin in 56 percent of the samples.  The geographic location of contaminated samples is indicated in the article together with the range of concentrations.


Surveys for mycotoxins in grain samples can yield widely variable results due to inherent sampling errors.  Data relating to type and distribution of specific mycotoxins can be used as a guide to implement more intensive and stratified sampling programs applicable to an area or feed mill.

Download the SPONSORED ARTICLE at http://Egg-Cite.com/Articles/inventory/Biomin.pdf


Short Chain Fatty Acids and Poultry Gut Health

Mar 25, 2016


The following article was presented during the Pre-Conference Nutrition Session before the 2016 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention in Saint-Paul on March15th. The information provided is helpful to an understanding of intestinal function and the benefits of supplementing with products that release butyric acid in the cecum and terminal ileum.   



Vanessa Iseri, PhD. Kemin Industries, Inc.


Due to customer demands, producers have been asked to change the way they grow production animals, specifically through the removal of antibiotics. With this need comes necessary changes to animal production as a whole, starting with management, feed, and vaccination programs. To make those changes, an endless number of alternatives are being considered in order to meet the same feed efficiency, growth rate, and egg production standards that are accomplished with antibiotics. With that, comes a need to better understand how gut health is affected by these alternatives.

Factors that Contribute to Gut Health

Gut health in both human medicine and animal health has been defined in various ways. It was initially described that good gut health was the absence of illness. However, through our development of molecular tools and a better understanding of intestinal biology, it is clear that there are many factors that contribute to gut health. The intestinal barrier, microbiota and intestinal immunity can be considered the three main factors that attribute to gut health, but more importantly the interactions of these systems.

Soon after hatch, the chick’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract comes into contact with exogenous microorganisms and quickly develops into a complex microbial ecosystem. Each section along the intestinal tract contains distinct microbial communities, in which multiple species of Lactobacillus, Enterococcus and Clostridium mostly populate the ileum as opposed to species of Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, and Clostridium in the cecum. The relationship between the host and microbiota can be described has a symbiotic one, in which both benefit. The host provides a protected, nutrient-rich environment which allows the microbiota to establish a diverse, yet remarkably resilient ecosystem. In return, the microbiota provides resistance to the colonization of pathogenic microbes, aid in the development and maintenance of intestinal and systemic immunity, support intestinal structure development, and produce nutritional factors.

Any dramatic shifts in the microbial population due to dietary changes, or pathogens can be detrimental to the host. The epithelial barrier has the large task of absorbing nutrients, yet at the same time protecting the host from invading pathogens, toxins, and antigens, as well as the abundant microbial populations in the intestine. Besides nutrient absorption and host protection, enterocytes are capable of acting as frontline sensors to microbial encounters in order to guide immune response. Specialized epithelial subsets enteroendocrine cells, goblet cells, Paneth cells, and M cells also contribute to maintaining a physical (i.e. mucus) and chemical barrier (i.e. β-defensins) between the outside environment and the host.

An important component to maintaining the intestinal barrier are tight junctions, which are made up of multifunctional protein complexes. Tight junctions seal the paracellular space between epithelial cells, thus preventing the translocation of microorganisms and other antigens across the epithelium. Tight junctions are highly dynamic structures, and their permeability is regulated by various factors such as diet, microbes, inflammation. With the continual exposure of microbiota and both dietary and environmental antigens, the intestinal immune system must balance between tolerance and responding to challenges. Thus, the intestinal immune system plays a huge role in overseeing the interactions between the host and the microbiota, through a network of immune cells, cytokines, chemokines and other immunological mediators.

Hooper and Macpherson describe the intestinal immune system as having three levels of protection each with distinct mechanisms. The first layer of protection is the secretion of chemical barriers, such as secretory IgA, that minimize the ability of bacteria to adhere to the epithelial lining. The second layer is the detection and elimination of bacteria that has translocated by phagocytic cells in addition to their role in intestinal wound healing. The third layer is the network of cells and immune proteins that allow the intestinal immune system to quickly respond to infection using minimal inflammation, and containing the infection at the intestinal level.

As mentioned above, the microbiota, epithelial barrier, and intestinal immune system are key factors that affect gut health, and the interactions of all three of these systems are necessary for both the development and maintenance of gut health. Key examples that illustrate this point are the development and maturation of the intestinal immune system through its interactions with the microbiota; epithelial homeostasis is based on its interactions with the microbiota; and the interactions of the intestinal immune system and epithelial barrier allow for the containment and stability of the microbial populations.



Mar 11, 2016



Dr. Henry Turlington Director of Quality, Education and Training for the American Feed Industry Association presented a review to prepare for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Speaking at the Kalmbach Agribusiness Conference in Columbus, OH March 17th, Dr. Turlington outlined the critical consideration for compliance for feed mills falling under the purview of FSMA.


The deadline for compliance for large businesses (other than for concerns classified as ‘Small’ and ‘Very Small’ feed milling plants) will be September 19, 2016. The compliance date for small businesses will be September 18, 2017.


FSMA Part 507 Subpart B requires analysis and implementation of risk-based preventive controls to manufacture feed for food-producing herds and flocks and pet food. Turlington stressed that FSMA is a quality and food safety management system which requires more than a hazard analysis critical control point systems (HACCP) approach. FSMA demands management not only of critical control points with specified limits and monitoring but also involves a comprehensive food safety plan incorporating hazard analysis, implementation of risk-based preventive control with monitoring.  The plan should take into account supplier verification, and corrective action in the event of deviation from standards.  A recall plan should be in place and extensive records and documentation of both the plan and its implementation should be available for review by FDA Inspectors.


Coccidiosis Challenge During Colder Months

Feb 23, 2016

Dr. John McCarty


Dr. John McCarty, Senior Veterinarian, Merial, Inc.

Dr. John McCarty has prepared a practical article dealing with control of coccidiosis in broiler growing with reference to winter conditions. Successful application of vaccines requires appropriate administration and structured monitoring as described.

Coccidiosis can have an enormous impact on broiler performance which is most often reflected in reduced weight gain and decreased feed efficiency. It is considered to be the most costly pathogen challenge in modern broiler production in the U.S. While coccidiosis is a year-round problem, cold weather conditions can result in changes in the ecology in a broiler house that lead to increased cocci challenge.

When the weather cools and the houses tighten up, disease challenge tends to increase in the chicken house. As ventilation is decreased to help conserve heat, more moisture remains in the house. The increased moisture, especially in the litter, favors increased bacterial, viral, and cocci load.

Coccidia need moisture and heat for the oocysts to sporulate. Once these are sporulated, oocysts become infective to the chicken. The increase in moisture can lead to greater sporulation of the oocyst population. And, as more of the oocysts sporulate, birds are faced with a heavier cocci challenge.

The use of coccidiosis vaccines can help influence the nature of the load. Continued use of vaccines helps dilute the wild cocci population with a vaccine strain. In particular, vaccines with precocious strains place minimal stress on the bird while at the same time providing adequate stimulation for immunity development, and the bird can be protected with less stress.

The nature of the precocious strain vaccines allows for the increase of sporulation to be less detrimental, since the number of oocysts shed are less when compared to non-precocious strains of cocci. Even though there are fewer numbers of oocyst with the precocious strains of vaccine, the number present is still more than adequate to stimulate proper and complete immunity.

Coccidiosis control also helps minimize disease challenge from other organisms. A critical one when it comes to gut health is clostridia. Disruption of the intestinal lining, such 

as that caused by coccidiosis, provides opportunity for clostridial organisms to infect the gut and to cause disease such as necrotic enteritis. By reducing the level of coccidiosis, less disruption in the gut provides less opportunity for clostridial infection. This would also help the bird regarding nonspecific enteritis, both clinical and subclinical.


Sporulating Oocysts require heat
and moisture to develop in litter

There are many ways to prepare for the cooler months, but assuring proper cocci control prior to the onset of cold weather will keep a low cocci load in the house. Then, the use of a precocious vaccine strain during these months of the year allows for minimal stress on the bird’s digestive system while still providing optimum immunity against cocci.

It will also be important to continually monitor the cocci challenge. Doing routine postings of broilers to assure there is proper cycling helps confirm that the vaccine is doing its job of developing proper immunity.





Dec 30, 2015

Ken Rudd, Biobusiness Consultants, Galena, IL.

On occasion CHICK-CITE posts guest contributions by specialists in relevant fields. Ken Rudd retired from Merial after a long career in avian vaccine development and marketing both in North America and the International arena has followed the controversy over vaccination against HPAI. In the following article he shares his experience and observations relating to the control and eradication of future outbreaks of HPAI in the context of the U.S


Vaccination was one of the more contentious issues arising from the Spring 2015 epornitic of HPAI in upper Midwest states. The infection was and still is regarded as an exotic disease necessitating eradication. Despite widespread and intensive depletion of affected farms following rapid diagnosis, cases were diagnosed on large units on a daily basis in late April, May and early June. This resulted in turkey and egg producers at risk to request the USDA-APHIS to allow the use of inactivated vaccine as a component of the control program. As it turned out a decision was made not to introduce vaccination. This was due to strong opposition from the broiler producers who were completely unaffected and were justifiably concerned over losing their export markets for leg quarters estimated at close to 3 million metric tons and valued at $4.5 billion in 2015.

Fortunately the efforts to eradicate infection through quarantines and depletion of affected farms by the USDA-APHIS together with cessation of shedding of virus by waterfowl carriers in April and enhanced biosecurity resulted in an end to incident cases by mid-June. The USDA APHIS has confirmed that in the event of a future serious outbreak, possibly involving the broiler and turkey-producing states under the Atlantic flyway, vaccine would be employed as a component of a control program.  To this effect, contracts have been awarded to two manufacturers to create a stockpile of H5 vaccine.  The role of vaccination in the control of avian influenza has been reviewed on poultry-related websites and periodicals and was the subject of a recent webinar Vaccination as Part of an Avian Flu Eradication Plan with three speakers considering vaccination as a control measure from their respective experience.


Strategic Alliance Delivers Feed Enzymes to Global Livestock

Oct 21, 2015

In 2001, Royal DSM of Holland a multinational manufacturer of chemical, biologics and nutritional products entered into a strategic alliance agreement with Novozymes A/S of Denmark.  In terms of the Alliance, Novozymes produces enzymes for animal feeds in their various plants and U.S. Royal DSM n.v. operating in the U.S as DSM Nutritional Products Inc. is responsible for marketing and sales to the livestock industries in North America. 


USDA-APHIS Fall 2015, HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan

Sep 30, 2015


The USDA Preparedness and Response Program has now been circulated. CHICK-CITE has summarized the major conclusions relating to prevention and response. Relevant information is posted under the ARTICLES Tab for the benefit of Subscribers. The document is required reading for anyone involved in any direct or indirect aspect of poultry production given the profound financial impact of the disease.

On September 18th the US Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Veterinary Services, issued the long-awaited Preparedness and Response Plan in the event of an HPAI outbreak in the fall of 2015 or subsequently.

The plan considers the following aspects.

  • Preventing or reducing future outbreaks
  • Enhancing preparedness
  • Improving and streamlining response capabilities
  • Preparing for the potential use of AI vaccines

How to avoid costly corrosion from chemicals in your drinker lines.

Sep 18, 2015

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Joedi

Corrosion can ruin your poultry watering equipment more quickly than anything else. Taking steps to prevent and reduce corrosion is an important management objective to keep replacement costs from eroding too much of your bottom line.

Many producers regularly inject chlorine and/or acidifiers into the watering system in an attempt to kill bacteria and viruses in the water. However, chlorine and acidifiers can damage the metal and plastic parts of the drinker

We know of one producer who had to replace every drinker in his poultry house twice in less than a year because his acidification program was too aggressive. That cost him about $4,000! Not good ROI.

Producers originally began using acidifiers because the acid reduces the pH in a bird’s crop, making the gut less hospitable to bacteria and improving  digestion in young birds. Producers then began using acidifiers as agents to clean the drinker lines and found that keeping the pH of the water below 7 acidifies the birds’ crops while also killing bacteria in the drinker line. Researchers also determined that chlorine used as a sanitizer is more effective when the  pH of drinking water is between 6.0 and 6.8.


Interview with Dr. Gregorio Rosales

Jul 31, 2015

Dr. Gregorio Rosales, Vice President of Veterinary Services for Aviagen Inc. recently announced his intention to retire. Greg is a distinguished member of the veterinary profession and an acknowledged leader in the field of poultry medicine.  He obtained his DVM in 1979 from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the MS and PhD degrees from the University of Georgia in 1983 and 1988 respectively and is a Diplomate of the ACPV.

Recently CHICK-CITE had the opportunity to review his career accomplishments and to share his views on current issues which are of significance to the domestic and international broiler industries.



Probiotics and Their Actions

Jul 29, 2015

The Nutrition Physiology Co. LLC., (NPC) is actively promoting PoultriMax® as an integrated solution to the control of foodborne pathogens. Their products comprise both a hatchery-administered spray or gel to colonize the intestinal tract of chicks and poults with a viable suspension of a specific strain of Lactobacillus animalis (commercially-L.acidophilus) and a complementary probiotic feed additive.

Colonization of the beneficial organism established in the hatchery is then reinforced and extended by administration in feed during the growing period. Effective administration of PoultriMax® which incorporates a live Lactobacillus animalis in feed for growing flocks is achieved by using a patented post-pelleting application process.

The introduction of “beneficial” microorganisms into the pioneer flora should enhance protection against pathogenic food-borne bacteria and enhance production. The Food and Agricultural Organization defines probiotics as live micro-organisms, which when consumed in adequate amounts, can elicit beneficial health effects for the host.

The FAO has determined the following characteristics of acceptable probiotics to achieve a beneficial effect:-

  • The probiotic strain must remain stable during preparation, reconstitution and administration and retain inherent beneficial metabolic characteristics after ingestion.
  • The strain must reach the intended site in the intestinal tract to achieve beneficial effects, despite exposure to an acid environment in the stomach and potential degradation by digestive enzymes.
  • Probiotics must exert a beneficial effect without any deleterious side effects.

Commentary on the FDA Veterinary Feed Directive

Jul 3, 2015

A program organized by Zoetis and the National Cattleman’s Beef Association facilitated discussion and practical examples relating to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD).  A number of the questions and the responses by specialists including Dr. Mike Apley of Kansas State University are applicable to the broiler industry. 

Specific points include:-

  • Extra label use is banned under the new guidelines and it is therefore not a viable alternative to compliance with statutory label descriptions.
  • Each Veterinary Feed Directive issued by an independent Veterinary Practitioner or Veterinarian employed by an integrator must be specific for the state in which the Veterinarian is licensed.  This will have profound implications for large companies that operate in more than one state.
  • The Ionophore anticioccidials are not regarded as “medically important” (to humans) and therefore do not require a VFD prescription.  If however an antibacterial compound such as tylosin is fed concurrently with an ionophore, a prescription is required in accordance with the guidelines.
  • A Veterinary Feed Directive requirement allows a prescription to apply to more than a single flock raised on a complex and would not require a separate prescription for each contract farm.
  • The Food and Drug Administration requires that Veterinarians specify the duration of medication and the level of inclusion in feed.
  • At the Veterinarian’s discretion, a generic can be substituted for a branded product.  There are exceptions to this practice since if a combination product including a generic is not approved it would represent extra-label use and therefore is disallowed.
  • Veterinarians owning and operating their own facilities and by extension, applicable to Veterinarians employed by corporate entities, are able to prescribe antibiotics for their own operations or those under their control.
  • Veterinary Feed Directives do not represent “automatic authorization”.  Before prescribing an antibiotic the responsible Veterinarian must consider
    • Are non-antibiotic alternatives available?
    • Is the prescription in accordance with prudent use principles?
    • Will the prescription comply with the statutory withdrawal period before processing?
    • Could antibiotic resistance be facilitated through proposed medication?
  • The following compounds will convert from over-the-counter sales to prescription in 2017.
    • Neomycin
    • Tylosin
    • Virginiamycin
    • Tetracyclines

Conditions Affecting Broiler Meat Quality

Jun 3, 2015



Professor Fernando Rutz of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil reviewed the major quality issues relating to muscle development of broilers at the 2015 Alltech Symposium in Lexington, KY on May 18th

As an introduction Rutz noted the significant improvements in technical performance achieved in broiler-production due to genetic selection and supported by advances in nutrition, housing and prevention of disease. The industry has benefitted from an increase in processing weight for age, decreasing age at harvest and improved feed conversion efficiency contributing to enhanced profitability. These advances have in turn created problems of quality as perceived by consumers, relating to muscle development. Since 1957, broiler weight at 40 days has quadrupled and breast meat yield has increased by 80 percent.

The conditions recognized as being of concern comprise developmental myopathies.  This family of disorders relates to the vascularization of muscle tissue and dysfunction of muscle fibers.  Skeletal muscle consists of fibers arranged in bundles separated by connective tissue.  Muscle tissue is supplied with blood from arteries within the connective tissue.


Copyright 2017 Simon M. Shane