The prospects for chicken remain very buoyant

The global chicken business continues to evolve and grow in all regions, according to Gary Millar – the business development manager for Asia with the international poultry breeding operation Hubbard .

“This growth is dependent on the stage of market development, economic improvement and export opportunity in individual countries,” he said.

“At one end of the scale, in regions with mature markets such as Australia and the EU, consumption levels are high at more than 46kg/person/year.

“This trend will be maintained at modest rates of no more than 3% per annum.

“Developing markets – with typically much lower current consumption levels – are, however, expected to grow much more rapidly over the next decade.

“For example, in Indonesia and Vietnam consumption levels are expected to grow by 15.8% and 36.9% – to levels of 6.3kg/head/year and 12.7kg/head/year respectively.

While some of this increased demand is supplied from established export bases, domestic production levels are also set to grow in these markets as they ultimately strive for self-sufficiency.

Millar spoke at the recent Poultry Industry Education Trust annual conference in Co. Tyrone.

Where Europe is concerned, he envisaged production of poultry meat from the faster growing white-feathered chickens migrating eastwards to countries like Poland.

This will leave the UK and Ireland to concentrate on free range, organic and other slower growing production systems – within which brown-feathered birds predominate.

But whichever production system we are looking at, the poultry industry must strive to minimise the health challenges confronted by birds – Avian Influenza being a case in point.

According to Millar, Northern Ireland’s poultry sector continues to grow strongly, with total broiler numbers recording an increase of 42% since 2000.

“A corner stone to the success of poultry production is the genetic potential of the conventional fast-growing broiler, whose performance has evolved vastly over the past decades.

This is a direct result of selective breeding, focused on key performance and welfare traits.

Millar said that the poultry industry must continue to put an increasing focus on bird welfare.

“Genetic improvement means that birds will soon have the potential to reach finishing weights within 25 days.

“Under these circumstances there is no scope, at all, for birds to suffer any form of setback. Within this production timescale, the concept of compensatory growth becomes irrelevant.

“It should also be pointed out that within a 25-day production cycle; a broiler chicken will spend 40% of its entire existence within the egg.”