A leading forest free range farm opening in South Waikato aims to pioneer sustainable egg production in New Zealand.
He says the chicken meat industry has grown between 3.8 and 9% each year for the past five years.
“Growth has been phenomenal,” Brooks told the Agcarm summer conference. “I have seen recent figures where red meat consumption has dropped in NZ, but for chicken meat we’ve grown consistently for 25 years -- probably 3% or more growth year on year.”
NZ has 170 meat chicken farms with 99% of production from four main companies Tegel, Ingham, Turks and Brinks.
He says in NZ the chicken industry is vertically integrated, as it is around the world.
“It is the reason why since WWII chicken has surged as a protein source worldwide,” Brooks explains.
Tegel has slightly changed its model, but previously held a shareholding in the importer of the birds. It owns those birds. The day-old birds are sent to the farm.
Tegel supplies veterinary services, it has feedmills which send feed to the farmers, nutritionists and livestock managers, a truck fleet and it does the processing and selling. The company knows up to a year ahead approximate numbers needed throughout the process.
Brooks says the industry controls its inputs and outputs in a way other sectors – such as red meat – do not.
While NZ has not been a big exporter of chicken it is growing; Tegel’s strategy is to have 25% of production going to export.
We have always exported to the Pacific Islands and now, “to the great annoyance of the Australian industry,” NZ is allowed to export chicken to Australia.
The United Arab Emirates is another big market and Japan is small but growing.
Cage production keeps growing
Free range in meat chickens started much later as a market than free range in eggs, but is growing fast and is now up to 20% of production, says Brooks.
Meat chicken here is barn or free range; it has never been in cages in NZ.
Like the meat industry, the layer chicken industry is in “absolute boom times”.
The industry produces at least one billion eggs annually, with 9.5% growth in consumption in the last year, says Brooks.
Per person per year that is 246 eggs from 161 layer farmers; 20 farms produce 85% of the country’s eggs.
That industry has a few big players and 100-110 small free range operations with a couple of thousand birds. A commercial farm in this country is defined as 100 birds or more.
The systems are cage, a colony cage (a much bigger cage with 20-60 birds with a nesting area, perches and scratch pads), barn and free range.
Free range is now about 20% of the market and cage is 75% and – contrary to what a lot of people understand – the cage market is growing.