The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) plans to add several new topics – including emergency preparedness and response – to their list of identified research needs this fall as a response to industry challenges due to COVID-19.
The organization will also introduce employee health and safety, processing, animal welfare and breeder and meat bird management as priorities for proposed research projects.
“These priorities are updated every two years so that we can ensure that the research we fund directly addresses the needs of the industry,” said Denise L. B. Heard, DVM, MAM, ACPV, Director, Research Programs, USPOULTRY.
COVID-19's impact on poultry
The COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on the poultry industry this spring. Numerous processing plants suspended operations temporarily or reduced production levels due to worker illnesses.
One major integrated poultry processor was forced to humanely depopulate nearly 2 million birds due to low worker attendance, stating that they were “no longer able to harvest the amount of birds needed daily or weekly to maintain target weights and ages.”
In addition, with the dining rooms of many foodservice outlets closed, some companies had to figure out how to quickly shift or repurpose production plants to the retail sector due to changing consumer demand.
Research as a pillar
These priorities will help USPOULTRY make a difference in the industry, Heard said, citing projects on wooden breast and an annual survey on antibiotic and antimicrobial use in the poultry industry that generates data used by the Food and Drug Administration.
Research projects are selected by USPOULTRY for funding twice a year. Most funded project receive between $80-100,000 and are completed within two years. More than 50 universities and federal and state facilities have received grants since the inception of the program, resulting in more than $32 million in funding.
“Research is one of the pillars of USPOULTRY and the USPOULTRY Foundation. We have a strong commitment to the advancement of research and education in poultry science and technology. The USPOULTRY research program is one-of-a-kind, dynamic and constantly evolving to meet the needs of the poultry industry,” Heard said.
“USPOULTRY has been funding research since the 1960s. It’s one of our largest focuses and we believe it sets us apart from other organizations,” Gwen Venable, Vice President of Communications at USPOULTRY, added.