Partnerships and listening applauded

THE SCARE over avian influenza did not darken the mood at the British Poultry Council's annual awards held in the House of Commons last week where seven recipients were recognised for their achievements within the industry.

Chairman of the BPC's Chicken Breeders and Hatcheries Sector Group, James Hook introduced the awards and James Paice MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture presented them.

Speaking before the presentation Mr Hook said: "We shouldn't let the threat of avian influenza over-shadow these awards, we are prepared and taking the strongest precautions we can. As an industry we are here today to celebrate our successes and be proud of our ability to produce food to such high standards.

"The strong emphasis put on working in partnership by the Government is right and correct, but like a marriage we do need to listen to each other. We both know that Britain needs a strong and robust poultry industry, not just for its economy but also for its food security, for the health of the nation."

Awards were presented in front of more than 150 guests including poultry producers, parliamentarians and scientists.

The Tom Newman Memorial Award was awarded to Dr Sharon Levisohn, senior research scientist for the Agricultural Research organisation, for her work on the differentiation of field and vaccinal strains of Mycoplasma gallisepticum.

Victoria Philbin from the University of Oxford and Institute of Animal Health was presented with the Scholarship Award, for her work documenting the discovery and functional characterization of the chicken TLR7 and TLR8 locus.

The Distinguished Service Awards went to Allan Meldrum (Cobb Europe) and Ian Burgess who worked for PD Hooks and posthumously to John Allard (Norfolk Geese).

Mr Burgess, who worked for the same company for 40 years before retiring said he was surprised and very honoured to have won his award.

The Poultry Industry Marketing award went to Ruth Griffiths of Grampion Country Food Group, in recognition of her hard work and dedication as a director of the British Chicken Marketing Scheme.

Ms Griffiths said: "I'm absolutely delighted. It's a team effort with the PR agency EH PR and it's in recognition of what British chicken marketing has done in 2005. The whole campaign has been about getting consumers to choose British chicken over any other origin."

Addressing the audience, Mr Paice said: "A look at today's award winners illustrates why the British poultry industry continues to be a world leader in stockmanship and production. But despite our expertise and high standards, British poultry will continue to be undercut by cheap imports unless the food labelling regime gives consumers honest information about country of origin and standards of production."