Fieldwork is one of the key aspects of the SUSTAvianFEED project. In fact, producers are one of the main targets of the project’s activities, not only to promote a new sustainable diet in poultry farming, but also as active protagonists of the change, whose knowledge and experience represent a unique and indispensable background for an optimal result.
In this context, also the EGE University, the project partner that will focus on meat production using a local breed and that also have the responsibility for the economic evaluation of pilot activities and be the co-responsible partner of the social analysis of consumer evaluation of the final product, carried out some interviews with some small local poultry producers (Turkey) involved in the project.
An 80-90% of broiler meat production is supplied by integrated enterprises in Turkey. In addition, there are small broiler producers and feed mills that provide feed to these small producers. Thus, integrated broiler companies, broiler, and private feed producer companies were attended semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interview meetings were planned to evaluate the standard and sustainable diets, and to reveal the interviewees’ attitudes, preferences towards ingredients, and their acceptance of alternative sustainable diet formulations, drawing on their expertise and experience.
Within the scope of the SUSTAvianFEED project, two alternative sustainable diets with a lower environmental impact than a standard one are designed. During the interviews, broiler and feed producers are asked their opinions regarding the standard and sustainable diets presented.
Producers have primarily reflected on the existing standard diet. Since there is currently no alternative to soybean in terms of nutrient content, broiler producers think that they cannot achieve the same performance with other ingredients. But any alternative is welcome, as soybeans are imported, causing producers to suffer frequent price and availability crises.
The average proportion of soybean and corn in the broiler starter diet is estimated to be 33.64% and 52.00%, respectively. While the most of soybean used in the diet is provided via import, the share of imported corn accounts for 6.00% only. This means that about 11 to 12 % of the corn in the starter diet is imported.
Concern about the environmental impact of using diets with high content of imported ingredients is found to be at a medium level. Rather the producers underlined to be worried about increasing feed prices (due to frequent changes in exchange rates and to changes in other macroeconomic factors) and to probable lack of availability of the feed ingredients
Relative instead to the two diets proposed by the project, producers consider that the nutrient content, availability, and price of alternative ingredients, are more important than environmental sustainability. Although they find it interesting to reduce the environmental impact, economic factors come to the fore. It seems that the acceptance of alternative sustainable diets by producers will heavily depend on economic factors.
It has been stated that if the reduction in environmental impact increases the cost of feed, this increase should be reflected in the price of meat. It is thought that – even if limited to a small group – there would be consumers who are willing to pay this price premium, especially if the environment-friendly characteristic of the product is accurately communicated to them.
The interviewees are found to be also quite willing to introduce insects into the diet of their chicks. Insect larva is considered to be an alternative protein source.
Consumer acceptance regarding the inclusion of insect larva in broiler feed does not appear to be a major problem for the producer. The producers are rather optimistic regarding the consumers’ probability of having concerns about the introduction of insects in chickens’ diets. However, they placed some level of uncertainty on this topic. Most of them agreed that the perception of the consumers would depend upon promotional efforts.
On the other hand, there are hesitations about its price, cost, and supply.
Their concern regarding the use of insects as well was rather on the side of economic factors, such as costs and availability in high quantities. One of them also reminded that insect protein was not accepted in Helal labeling, which could prevent them from being able to export poultry products to the Muslim countries which constitute Turkey’s major market. Therefore, the need for the elimination of these obstacles is underlined.
In general, producers interviewed support the idea of the major reduction of soybean meal in the diet to a medium level. On the other hand, their opinions on this topic vary widely among individuals. Pilot activities are about to begin in the field, so results won’t be long in coming.