Cartons cull 60k chickens

More than 60,000 chickens have been destroyed by a local poultry processor after tests identified the birds may have been reared using unauthorised antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs).

The issue came to light earlier this month when tests were carried out on chickens supplied by two farmers to Carton Bros, which operates the Shercock-based chicken processor Manor Farm. The business works with over 180 farm suppliers.

As a result, 60,000 birds were rendered, with tens of thousands more placed in cold storage until testing was completed over fears too that they were not fit for human consumption.

Manor Farm currently processes around 900,000 chickens a week at its plant in east Cavan.

The company is the largest poultry processor in Ireland and, last year, the business announced plans to invest a further €25 million to increase processing capacity to 1.5 million birds per week over a five-year period.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Marine (DAFM) have been informed.

In statement issued toThe Anglo-Celt, Carton Bros said all processing by the company, which employs more than 800 staff and has an annual turnover in the hundreds of millions, is carried out to the “highest quality standards” and “always under the supervision” of Department officials.

“In line with these standards, the business carries out routine testing of both live animals and final products,” said the spokesperson, who confirmed that in a “recent set of tests” on live birds, “the possible use of unauthorised antibiotics was raised in connection with two farmers”.

“Based on these results, DAFM was notified immediately and further testing was carried out.

“Subsequently, and out of an abundance of caution, all birds from these two farms were processed and, where there was any doubt over the suitability of the birds for the food chain, the birds were removed and disposed of, under the supervision of DAFM,” added the Carton Bros spokesperson.

They concluded by informing this newspaper: “As a result, any potential threat to food safety has been avoided by these proactive and precautionary measures.”

The DAFM were contacted for comment but said it “does not comment on individual cases”.