Bio-security in poultry is a well known but vague word, with a wide range of interpretations. Translated from Latin gives the following meaning: "Security of life". Whatever you think of the word however, it will not offer you that kind of guarantee. Biological organisms have many differences but for sure, they have one thing in common...they will all die.Hence, a better word would be bio-protection: "Protection of life".

This article gives an approach to bio-protection in the present and future contexts.

A definition of bio-security/protection is: The production system under which sources of biological, chemical or physical contamination and/or infection are minimized enabling the supply of a healthy and safe product. This includes much more than: preventing the birds to get infected with contagious agents.

For further explanation, first to be noticed is that the word minimize is used. One is never sure what in the future will be a risk factor simply because we do not know exactly all pathogens present in our world. Therefore, it must be specified contaminations and specified infections.

Furthermore it includes the entire production chain and beyond that. It includes the:
Absence of diseases and contaminations throughout the entire integration on bird level.
Absence of diseases and contaminations for the producers. These are the people working with poultry.
Absence of diseases and contaminations which can harm the consumer.
Absence of diseases and contaminations which can be a threat to the poultry population in a given area.
Absence of diseases and contaminations which can be a threat to the human population in a given area. In other words bio-terrorism.

What should be clear is that, an organization that needs to develop and maintain a good bio-protection program must specify exactly which diseases and contaminations are to be and/or under control and how are they monitored as well as what tolerances are accepted.

Looking at the factors involved, we can make a differentiation of factors coming from outside the bird (e.g. feed) and factors coming from inside the bird (e.g. immune system).

Extrinsic factors: These are everything, which get in contact with the bird from outside:
- Housing
- Feed
- Water
- Air
- People
- Equipment
- Wild life
- Vaccines
- Medicines

Intrinsic factors: These reflect the given health status of the day old chicken and the defence mechanism of the bird:
- Defence system
- Vertically transmitted diseases

All these factors can interact with each other either in a positive or negative manner. Some examples:
- Bad nutrition will limit the bird the possibility to use its immune system optimally and with that increases the use of medicines thus increasing the risk of food contamination with residues (negative).
- Properly applied vaccines will give the bird a protection against pathogens and prevent birds to act as a disease vector for their surroundings (positive)

The interaction between the different factors varies per area. That is why bio-protection programs have to be tailor-made. The reaction of the bird on the extrinsic factors determines the final outcome. Looking at the defence mechanism of poultry, one can distinguish the following defence lines:
eathers and skin
Mucous membranes
ocal immunity e.g. in the wall of the intestine
Systemic immunity e.g. the spleen

The first three defence lines are the most important. Vaccines use the last 2 systems to create protection.

The approach
First thing that an integration should do is to define which threats are the most important for the integration and its markets. Second is to monitor within that integration what is the actual situation. Third is to analyse the critical points.

From hereon, actions can be taken and the results of the actions should be checked and adapted, if necessary. In most present production systems, bio-protection deals with the following threats: Bacteria, viruses, toxins, proteins and residues. Maybe proteins do not seem to look as threats, but one must be reminded that "Mad Cow Disease" is being caused by a simple protein.

Looking at the factors involved, one can make a schedule which factor is important for which threat. This makes it easier to decide for an integration where to focus depending on the threats within their area and their market.

In steps:
1 define
2 monitor
3 analyse
4 implement
5 monitor
6 analyse
7 adapt

Once the system is in place, the cycle is monitor-analyse-adapt.

The future
Bio-protection in the future will bring some new elements especially population health care and bio-terrorism. Welfare of poultry will become more and more an important issue not only as consumers demand for it but also as a tool to improve natural defence systems of the chicken.
Bio-protection will become more and more an integrated part in food safety and quality.

Bio-protection is an essential part of the entire production process, which benefits the birds, producers and the consumers.