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Feature: How Osei Kwame Despite and Ofori Sarpong’s poultry farm using cage-free housing can boost Ghana’s economy

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Osei Kwame Despite and Ofori Sarpong

This article delves into the rationale behind using cage-free housing in one of Ghana’s probably most significant poultry farm initiatives. Cage-free farming, a management approach that eschews battery cages for loose-housing systems, presents manifold advantages for hens, consumers, the economy, and farmers alike. The recent report by Minister of Agriculture and Food, Bryan Acheampong, underscores the country’s dependence on importing over 300,000 metric tons of poultry, prompting discussions to bolster local production. Notable stakeholders, including Dr. Osei Kwame Despite, CEO of Despite Group, and Dr. Ofori Sarpong, CEO of Special Investments Limited, have articulated plans for a substantial poultry farm to boost the poultry industry.

Cage-free systems offer a plethora of benefits, spanning animal welfare, consumer preference, economic stimulation, and sustainable farming practices. Embodying the fundamental principles of animal welfare, these systems allow hens to express natural behaviors without inflicting harm or discomfort. In stark contrast, battery cage systems confine hens to spaces akin to an A4 sheet, causing an array of maladies including metabolic diseases such as fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome, osteoporosis, egg peritonitis, etc. By opting for cage-free housing, Drs. Despite and Sarpong will champion the freedom of thousands of hens to move unhindered, promoting their well-being.

Ghanaian consumers increasingly denounce imported frozen chicken, with a recent survey revealing that 47.6 percent prefer cage-free eggs over those sourced from confined conditions like battery cages. Scientifically, eggs from pasture-raised hens boast elevated nutritional content, particularly in vitamin E and total omega-3 fatty acids. Consumer willingness to pay a premium for organic products further underscores the market shift towards cage-free offerings, often equated with organic quality. Moreover, the rampant misuse of antibiotics in livestock, contributing to global antimicrobial resistance, has catalyzed the need for change. According to a report by Oxford University, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) caused an estimated1.27 million deaths in 2019 – more deaths than HIV/AIDS or malaria – and that antimicrobial-resistant infections played a role in 4.95 million deaths globally. Notably, the UK’s Noble Foods experienced diminished antibiotic use in its free-range (cage-free) system compared to its caged production in 3 years from 2017 to 2020.

Livestock production, constituting 14% of Ghana’s agricultural GDP, attributes part to the poultry sector. The housing model adopted by Drs. Despite and Sarpong at their farm will profoundly impact its economic potential. The global resonance of the cage-free concept is evident in international corporations like Yum – KFC, Nestlé, and Unilever committing to cage-free sourcing. By establishing one of Ghana’s largest poultry farms as cage-free, Drs. Despite and Sarpong position themselves strategically to attract foreign investment aligned with ethical principles. This bold move not only addresses domestic demand but opens doors for neighboring countries, fostering bilateral trade and economic growth.

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In essence, opting for cage-free housing systems aligns with both ethical considerations and economic imperatives. Drs. Despite and Sarpong’s pioneering vision to transform Ghana’s poultry industry should embody a progressive approach that promises a healthier future for animals, consumers, and the nation’s economy.

By Dr. Daniel Abiliba, Intern at the National Food Safety Laboratory

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