Chicken Meat Production
International Chicken Meat Industry
The broiler chicken industry worldwide has continually grown over the last 40 years.
In 2005 world chicken meat production was 71 million tonnes, with the USA, China and Brazil the world's largest producers (FAOStat, 2007). Australia produced 760,000 tonnes (ABS, 2006).
In 2006 Australia exported 16,148 tonnes of chicken meat (Victoria exported 6,806 tonnes). Major markets included Hong Kong, South Africa, and the Philippines (TradeData International, 2007). Victoria's chicken meat exports were valued at $6 million total in 2006.
Australian Chicken Meat Industry
The Australian chicken meat industry has undergone enormous changes since its emergence as a specialist industry in the late 1950's. It has grown from an industry that produced approximately 3 million broilers in 1950-'51 to producing approximately 423 million broilers in 2003/04 (approximately 684,000 tonnes dressed weight). The industry directly employs about 16,000 people nationally. In 2004/05 poultry meat had a gross value of production of $1416 million, an increase of approximately 7% from the previous year. Large capital investment, efficient integrated systems, improved production systems and feed conversion efficiencies and a relatively disease free environment have provided the basis for the ongoing growth of the industry. These improvements have led to a significant reduction in the real price of chicken meat. This reduction in the real price has been a major contributor to poultry meat (of which chicken is ~95%) becoming the most consumed meat in Australia in 2004/05 (37.7 kg per person annually in 2004/05).
Victorian Chicken Meat Industry Structure
In 2005/06, Victoria produced 122 million broiler chickens (28% of Australian production), making it the second largest producer of broiler chickens in Australia behind New South Wales (34% of Australian production). At any one time in Victoria there are approximately 22 million broiler chickens being grown. There are 5 major chicken meat processors in Victoria (Inghams Enterprises, Bartter Enterprises, Baiada Poultry, Hazeldene's Chicken Farms, and La Ionica Farms) and each of these organisations either own or directly control each stage of production from the breeding and hatching of chicks through to the processing and marketing of the final product.
Breeding and Hatching Sector
The breeding and hatching of chicks requires parent stock that has been selectively bred from grandparent stock. Eggs are incubated at large commercial hatcheries prior to delivery to grower farms as day old chicks. There are currently two major genotypes used in the Victorian industry. The two genotypes, the Ross bird and the Cobb bird, are derived from stock imported from the UK and the US respectively. The importation of breeding stocks has created significant links between the Australian industry and multi-national poultry breeding companies.
Key Biological Indices
The important characteristics selected for in broilers are growth rate, feed conversion and carcass processing characteristics. The modern commercial broiler strains are capable of achieving liveweights of 2.8 kg at 49 days of age with feed conversion of less than 1.9 kg of feed per kg of liveweight.
The significance of further processing to the chicken meat industry should also ensure that the meat to bone ratio of broilers at fixed body weights is increasing and that birds will generally become larger to capture efficiencies in boning out and further processing. Mortality in broiler flocks currently averages about 4-5%, and it is estimated that this will decline to between 2-3%, as metabolic diseases and issues of immunological competence are clarified.
Breeder flocks currently average about 150-170 eggs per annum with a hatchability of about 80-85%. These performances are also expected to improve with substantial increases in the egg production of breeders achieved through selection and improved management strategies.
Chickens are grown to processing weight in enclosed sheds where ventilation is provided by either natural cross ventilation across the shed width, fully enclosed sheds with extractor fans on one side, or the modern tunnel ventilated sheds. The floor is covered with litter material, usually rice hulls or wood shavings, while feed and water are available ad lib. Feed is provided automatically via an auger system in regularly spaced pans while water is most commonly supplied through a nipple system. Birds are grown to an age ranging from 5-8 weeks and birds are collected at intervals within this period depending on the weights of the birds and the demands of the processor. Following the removal of all birds, the litter bedding is removed, sheds are cleaned and disinfected, and fresh litter is applied, to decrease the risk of disease in preparation for the following batch of chickens. Each farmer grows an average of approximately 5.5 batches annually.
The majority of chicken growing in Victoria is done under contractual arrangements between the grower and the processor. There are approximately 220 contract growers in Victoria with farm sizes ranging from approximately 12,000 birds to approximately 400,000 birds.
Contract growers are concentrated in 3 regions of Victoria, Gippsland, the South-West and the North-West. The majority of farms in Gippsland are concentrated around the Mornington Peninsula, those in the South-West around the Bellarine peninsula and greater Geelong, while those grower farms in the North-West are mostly situated around Bendigo.
Growers raise chickens on behalf of the processing companies in return for a growing fee. The processing company delivers day old chicks, provides feed and medication as required, provides management advice throughout the growing period and collects the birds when they are ready for processing. The farmer in return provides the land, shedding and equipment, and the labour required to grow the birds to processing age.
Chickens are transported directly from the farm to the processing plant where they are slaughtered, dressed and packaged for either wholesale or retail sale.
Australian Consumption of Chicken Meat
The per capita consumption of poultry meat (of which chicken is ~95%) has grown more rapidly than any other meat over the last three decades, rising from 4.4kg in 1950-'51 to 37.7 kg per person annually in 2004/05.
Price competitiveness has been the major factor in the increased consumption of chicken meat, however the perception among consumers that poultry is a healthy, low fat food which is easy to prepare has also contributed. Additionally, the chicken meat industry has gained market advantage through value-adding to the basic chicken meat product and, there is an increased emphasis on convenience foods such as take-away chicken. Table 1 indicates the change in average per capita meat consumption over the last 40 years.
Table 1: Australian Meat Consumption per Person (kg/year)
|Year||Beef and Veal||Mutton and Lamb||Pig||Poultry|