Agricultural Sciences

Ag Sciences students journey to Spain for wider perspective on poultry industry

Participants toured private poultry facilities and government research installations in Spain where they learned about quality control, animal welfare and organic-vs.-conventional production issues. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A small group of students and faculty from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences visited Spain over spring break to explore the country's poultry industry and culture.

The week-long trip offered a firsthand look at the differences between the U.S. and European poultry business. Participants toured private poultry facilities and government research installations where they learned about quality control, animal welfare and organic-vs.-conventional production issues.

Professor Jaime Garcia Prudencio, who teaches three levels of Spanish to students in the college, was a chaperone and interpreter for the visit, organized around the International Poultry Industry course. He noted that Spanish is important to agriculture because so many producers speak the language around the world.

"The students were immersed in the Spanish culture and how that culture affects customer demands in the poultry business," he said. "In contrast with the U.S., Spaniards have specific demands for particular bird breeds and sizes. On the business end, every region in Spain has an original label for their product."

Similar to the locally grown food ethos in the United States, these labels gain more publicity in areas of Spain and earn a certain amount of trust from consumers.

Students found time to pose with members of a 'hen' (bachelorette) party on a street in Barcelona, Spain. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

"We saw the poultry business from every angle -- the feed, the hatchery, broilers shed, slaughter room and the factory behind it," said Prudencio. "The students saw that not everything works the same way in Europe as in the United States.

In Europe, he added, the local, regional and national governments all have specific views of how to deal with chickens, but they have to collaborate to promote their products. "Their cultural, historical and traditional views of the chicken and its place in the culture differ, and the students took this all in."

The trip was designed to be a well-rounded experience incorporating the local culture while learning about poultry from different perspectives. "Why do we eat chicken? What is the story behind the chicken? The students were confronted with those questions," said Prudencio. "They traced the chicken's cultural importance throughout history."

The group visited art museums and saw Pablo Picasso's painting of a rooster as well as other pictures that depicted chickens living outside. The students saw how the image of the chicken evolved through history and the arts -- even the opera. "It depicted a roasting chicken in the middle of the stage," Prudencio said. "This was more visual and interactive, showing the chicken's cosmopolitan significance."

Not only did the group learn the importance of chicken in the Spanish culture, they also learned how locals eat it. "The students had a lot of free time so they explored tapas -- small portions of food that are a staple of Spain."

Alison Ferver, a freshman animal science major, went on the trip. "It was really enlightening and new. We saw their local culture and experienced the place on a personal level," she said.

"Everyone there was so helpful and welcoming. This experience is something I might never be able to do again in my life at the low cost offered to us -- I just couldn't pass it up!"


Alison Ferver, a freshman Animal Science major, went on the trip. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated May 03, 2016