No food safety issues found at local egg farm, following complaint about poor poultry welfare: SFA
SINGAPORE: No food safety issues, nor evidence of poor living conditions for poultry, have been found at homegrown egg farm Chew’s Agriculture, said the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) on Thursday (Jan 28), following a complaint against the producer.
The complaint against Chew’s Agriculture had come from a “consumer protection organisation”, Equitas Global, which said it had video footage showing “chickens packed in small cages, uniformed workers grabbing birds by the neck, and cages coated with dirt” at the farm.
In response to queries by CNA, SFA said it licenses and regularly inspects chicken egg farms.
"As part of SFA’s food safety monitoring, samples of water, feed, swabs from the poultry houses, as well as eggs are regularly taken for testing.
"There has been no food safety issues detected thus far. SFA also has not observed any evidence of poor living conditions for the poultry."
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But in view of the feedback received, SFA said it would continue to inspect and check on the farm. Chew’s Agriculture supplies Singapore with more than 255.5 million eggs a year.
With the complaint and video footage, Equitas said it had hoped to call “attention to potential food safety risks and animal welfare problems at the facility”.
Its spokesperson Bonnie Tang added that the organisation was “committed to highlighting the risks of caged egg production for consumers and animals”.
CHEW’S AGRICULTURE REBUTS CLAIMS
In response, Chew’s Agriculture said the videos had been taken at their previous facility “built decades ago”.
“That facility has since ceased production and closed in September 2020. We have built a new state-of-the-art modern facility which produces and supplies all our eggs since October 2020,” it said.
It added that this new facility and its equipment were “thoroughly inspected” by SFA, and that the farm had “always met SFA’s criteria and standard of sale (of eggs) for human consumption”.
Chew’s Agriculture also said it has been a member of a certification programme, focusing on humane treatment of farm animals, since 2019.
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Nevertheless, it acknowledged that there are “aspects of (its) farm’s animal handling practices which (it) could improve on” and said it is “constantly making progress in these aspects”.
In addition, the farm said it is on track to doubling its cage-free egg production by 2022 – from producing 25,000 to 30,000 cage-free eggs each day, to 60,000 a day.
This would raise its cage-free egg production from five per cent to around eight per cent of its overall production, the farm told CNA.
The rest of the eggs are produced using “conventional rearing systems”.
“This is a reflection of our strong commitment to a humane food production which meets international standards. We are fully devoted to continue increasing our cage-free egg production as our consumers’ and customers’ demand continue to grow,” said Chew's.
DAIRY FARM GROUP “COMMITTED” TO ANIMAL WELFARE ISSUES
Chew’s Agriculture supplies eggs to the Dairy Farm Group, which operates supermarket chains Giant and Cold Storage.
In its release, Equitas Global had also called on the group to change its policy on the kind of eggs it sells.
“It’s time for Dairy Farm to catch up with international retailers and set an earlier timeline for ending the sale of all eggs from caged hens,” said Equitas’ Ms Tang.
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In response to queries from CNA, a Dairy Farm spokesperson said the group was committed to tackling animal welfare issues across its businesses.
“Since April 2020, we have established a strong partnership with Humane Society International (HSI) to strengthen and shift behaviour across our supply chain for laying hens and other animal-sourced products across Asia.”
The group also said the path to supporting improvement in the conditions of laying hens is two-fold.
The first is to work with its suppliers to support changes in their operations that align with higher standards of animal welfare and cage-free supply, said the spokesperson.
The second step is to help customers recognise the benefits of ethically sourced eggs, and to provide them with a wider range of egg products.
“As a first step of commitment, we are investing in and launching a new value range of cage free eggs under our Meadows Brand in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2021, and we look forward to sharing that news with everyone soon,” said Dairy Farm’s spokesperson.