The following article is from Andersons’ poultry outlook for 2022 and was written by consultant Edward Calcott.  

“To avoid sounding like a broken record, I am not going to talk about the obvious, and seemingly numerous, eternal issues which have faced the UK poultrymeat sector this year, such as labour availability, Brexit, Covid, CO2, logistics issues trade deals feed prices climate change etc.

See also: Call made for Red Tractor stocking density reduction

Instead, let us focus on what producers can influence and control within their businesses.

In 2018, Andersons Research produced a report identifying the top characteristics of high performing farms, which included:

  1. Minimise overhead costs
  2. Set goals and compile budgets
  3. Compare yourself with others and gather information
  4. Understanding your market requirements and meeting them
  5. Give each detail the attention it deserves
  6. Have a mindset for change and innovation
  7. Continually improve people management
  8. Specialise

Do some of these sound relevant to your business?

Let us focus on ‘Understanding your market requirements and meeting them’.

Who is the customer of the broiler farmer? Technically, in most growing arrangements, it is the processing factory.

The target weights and dates are set, so the right size bird is available at the right time to the factory.

Who is your customer?

Now take one more step along the supply chain. Who is the customer of the factory? It is the shops, the retailers, the restaurants, the caterers.

Then their customer is the actual consumer, the person who cooks and eats the chicken.

Due to vertical integration because of a need for efficiency, the steps have been reduced, but there is still a significant gap between producer and consumer. This is where our efficient and innovative industry has room for improvement.

The humble chicken has lost its identity. It is on par with milk, a brandless commodity product that is a household staple.

Tiers of welfare

Instead, we have ‘tiers’ of welfare.

There is Red Tractor assured; RSPCA Assured; Room to Roam; Indoor; British Indoor; British Indoor +; Free Range; Organic to name a few.

Then we have Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), which has good intentions, but a slightly controversial and corporate name – does it mean that chickens not reared to the BCC standards are bad?

The free-range egg sector had a better link between farms and consumers, an example being the simple branding of the Happy Egg Co. – a brand with a chirpy name and an identity to which consumers can relate to across all stores.

There is a link made back to the farmer who farmed the hens and the customers who will crack the eggs.

Chicken identity

Is this where broiler businesses are missing out?

‘I’ve got some happy eggs for tea’ sounds a lot more appealing than ‘I’ve got a better chicken commitment chicken for tea’.

In the future, I think more needs to be done to give chicken a simple identity that consumers can understand. They can make the link to the country of origin and the production methods, so informed purchasing decisions can be made with clarity.

This is important more than ever as reduced meat diets potentially become more popular.

We could treat customers to a cheerful chicken, a roaming rooster or even a pleasantly produced pullet!