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Team:ColegioFDR Peru/Problem

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Team:ColegioFDR Peru

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The Problem

 

Chicken farms are extremely important components of the agriculture industry in Peru, primarily within the country’s coastal region where over half of the population of 32 million people lives. The majority of Peru’s inhabitants largely depend on chicken in their daily diets, it being an easily accessible and abundant source of protein, especially for a large number who live in poverty. Just as an example, 12.5 million Pollos a la Brasa (a typical peruvian way of preparing chicken) are consumed monthly. Most people purchase their groceries (including meats) at open stall markets, which are breeding grounds for bacteria, rather than at supermarkets. With Peru being largely centralized and most people living in the capital, most chicken farms and processing plants are located near Lima. The main chicken producing companies in Peru, San Fernando and Rico Pollo, have established the bulk of their industry in Cañete, an impoverished province south of Lima. Cañete suffers from high crime rates, little access to clean water, and an unhygienic environment, all of which end up affecting the functioning of the farms and plants. There is also scarce regulation of facilities and bribery is commonly used to pass inspections.


Feather waste often accumulates within these facilities, which is a problem considering feathers do not degrade easily as they are made up of 90% keratin. Keratin is insoluble and contains sulfur-containing fibrous protein. Other than in feathers, it’s found in skin, hair, nails, hooves, horns, scales, claws, feathers, and teeth. It is synthesized by keratinocytes and is resistant to degradation by general proteases. The polypeptide chains of keratin are arranged into fibrous structures, made from α-keratins or β-keratins that are held by hydrogen bonds and disulfide cross links. It’s supramolecular structure provides keratin with rigidity. The degradation of keratin is a process that requires the synergistic action of sets of enzymes such as keratinases, oxidoreductases and cell wall-degrading glycosyltransferases. The buildup of feather waste is very problematic as it contributes greatly to the transmission of Avian Influenza and Campylobacter. Avian influenza persists in fallen feathers which makes it spread to other chickens more easily and can quickly wipe out entire populations. It can also be transmitted to humans who handle infected chickens (which includes touching their feathers) and can be fatal, as it has killed 60% of people infected since 1997. Peru depends largely on chicken so we need to have a reliable and efficient method of preventing an avian influenza outbreak from affecting the country. Campylobacter is a bacteria that is transmitted among chicken populations through proximity and contact, and it can be found in feather waste or in feces which often clings to feathers. Campylobacter is transmitted to humans through chicken meat, which is more likely in Peru due to poor sanitary conditions of transportation and distribution facilities. According to El Comercio, 73% of Peruvians are affected by Campylobacter (causing diarrhea, stomach pain, and death in the worst cases) at least once a year.


This issue is of significant global relevance because Campylobacter affects people in countries all over the world, especially those in poverty. Also, Avian Influenza is prevalent worldwide, with many recent outbreaks and a few human deaths in Asia. Research has shown that it is likely that many other diseases and bacteria have increased transmission with buildup of feather waste. The poultry industry faces difficulty in disposing of feather waste globally, with 2 million tons of waste produced annually. (Tseng FCJ, 2011) An efficient way of accomplishing this would provide an incentive for companies to fulfill this responsibility they have and reduce transmission of diseases and bacteria between chickens and to people. In terms of current solutions, chicken producing companies are expected to properly dispose of feather waste through manual cleaning. In more developed countries, laws and regulations are enough to ensure this but in Peru, it is not feasible to expect government reform to solve this problem. Existing microorganisms can degrade chicken feathers, including Bacillus licheniformis, Fumigatus fresenius, and Fervidobacterium islandicum. Peru has prevented large Avian Influenza outbreaks by limiting imports from other countries but there have still been a few reported cases in Lima.

 

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