The chicken producer, which uses around 150,000 tons of soybean meal annually in its broiler feed, told us today it would be in a position to supply customers with GM free chicken meat soon.
Alexander Hissting, general manager of the German Association of Food without Genetic Engineering (VLOG) said: “We would expect to see an immediate reaction from other poultry players on this. There should be further movement in the next few months and we predict the entire sector will be back using non-GM soy by the end of 2015.”
Stephanie Töwe, a campaigner with Greenpeace, said Wiesenhof’s decision sends a strong signal to the industry. “We urge other chicken producers like Rothkötter to move in the same direction,” she said.
February saw Wiesenhof, along with other German poultry companies, switch to GM soy for the dietary needs of their birds, reneging on a 14-year-old pledge not to use such ingredients in their feed.
Trade group, the ZDG, said the industry was forced to take such action due to the hike in the costs of the premium attached to sourcing non GM soy and the risk of cross-contamination of the GM free variant with GM soy.
But the association took the decision without convening a meeting with the retail sector, and the supermarkets have been on the offensive ever since.
Discussions between the two camps were initiated under the auspices of Germany’s QS animal welfare initiative, and in September, retailers such as Kaufland and Rewe demanded poultry producers fulfil their contract obligations and revert to sourcing GM free soy by January 2015.
However, the ZDG said such a deadline was not tenable.
Greenpeace initiated a campaign last March against the German poultry industry's migration away from non-GM feed, with the NGO employing such tactics as highly visible protests outside the major German discounters and a consumer postcard appeal.
“We wanted to mobilize the German retailers and get them to hike up the pressure on the poultry segment to revert to GM free soy feeding, and it looks like the combined efforts of Greenpeace, the VLOG and the supermarkets are now paying off,” Töwe told this publication today.
She said German consumers show a marked preference for GM free chicken and they want corresponding labelling indicators.
A survey Greenpeace commissioned in April on this topic shows 79% of consumers feel it is important or very important that poultry is not fed with GM feed, 93% of shoppers said they want a poultry product or egg labelled as such when produced with GM feed, and 61% of respondents said they would pay 0.50 cents more for GM free chicken meat.
Demands to be made of other meat sectors
As the retailers have been somewhat successful in their bid to get the German poultry sector back on the road to GM free soy usage, they might soon nudge other meat producing sectors to source accordingly, said Hissting.
“They will most likely look to build on the momentum created by their achievements with the poultry sector and try and get discussions going with the pork industry on shifting its supply chain towards GM free. But such transformation won’t happen overnight – it will be a while before we see any switch to GM free pig feed,” he told FeedNavigator.
Own brand innovation
German retailing group, Edeka, which last month announced the regional roll-out of own-label chicken products certified under non GM seal, Ohne Gentechnik (OG), said it is aiming to gradually extend the OG label to its own brand beef and pork products.
The supermarket giant had been forced to rely on an Italian poultry company, AIA, to supply it with GM free chicken due to the limited number of German companies able to meet its requirements on non-GM inputs.
Part of the Veronesi group, AIA, is certified against the rigorous OG standard.
One of the demands of the ZDG in their ongoing discussions with the retailers had been for the more widespread use of the OG seal on private label meat products in Germany, with the poultry group saying such a move would create far more transparency in the feed to food supply chain.
No one at that association responded to request for comments ahead of publication today.