The initiative, which is backed by the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, kicked off in August this year. It will run until the end of July 2026.
The EU is one of the world’s largest poultry meat producers. While broiler chicken production is growing, farmers face a number of challenges – from nutrition-related environmental issues to disease outbreaks.
To address production hurdles, BROILERNET will create 12 national level innovation networks and three EU level networks of broiler farmers, advisors, supply chain integrator companies, farmers' organizations, researchers, and veterinarians.
The project is designed around three main fields of concern: environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and animal health management.
“We will look to identify the most pressing challenges within the industry and then try to find possible solutions. Their usability will be evaluated, and then we will convey such ideas to chicken farmers in the EU,” said the project coordinator, Stefan Gunnarsson, university lecturer and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Swedish University of Agriculture.
Information about best practices will be disseminated through a variety of communication means, from multi-language flyers to videos and to national roadshows, to reach not only the vast majority of broiler farmers in the participating countries but also broiler farmers throughout the continent.
In addition, BROILERNET will engage with existing and new broiler-focused EIP-AGRI Operational Groups (OGs) and will look to enhance their impact.
“The long-term goal of the project is to increase sustainability within the sector,” said Gunnarsson.
While primarily focused on environmental sustainability, he said the participants will be mindful of the wider definition of sustainability, i.e., one that extends to social and economic objectives.
There is an industry partner and an academic partner attached to the project in the 12 European countries involved.
“Maybe a farmer in one country will consider they have a need for practical guidelines for how to reduce footpad dermatitis, and we find that another country has a concept in relation to making manure less moist or has developed a ventilation surveillance program to improve litter quality. The international thematic network will make a cost benefit analysis and an inventory of how these practices can be adapted to other countries,” explained Gunnarsson.
Broiler nutrition will also be on the agenda. It is critical as regards optimizing environmental sustainability, animal welfare and animal health management, the coordinator told us.
The feeding of slow growing birds will be explored as well.