Diary of a Poultry farmer: Hey, consider selling chicken parts to satisfy fast-changing consumer tastes

Friday February 17 2017

Mwangi Kaara a chicken trader at the City Park market displays his chicken.

Mwangi Kaara a chicken trader at the City Park market displays his chicken. Trading in chicken products which might otherwise be considered as waste is also profitable in a poultry enterprise. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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In the last few weeks, the South African poultry industry has been taking a beating from cheap imports of chicken thighs and drumsticks from the European Union.

At first it seemed strange to me that Europeans would consider these products as “waste”. But what seemed like a trade war between two giants turned out to be an indication of future consumer trends that I need to consider as I grow my business.

If you know where I am coming from, I have been reprimanded by some customers for not packing the head, legs and gizzards in their dressed chicken order.

I did some research and found that South Africa has one the largest and most advanced poultry industries in the continent, which also employs thousands of workers.

But before I draw lessons from the South African and European market idiosyncrasies, I will walk you through my previous experiences.

I have written about special attributes that interest customers seeking to buy my poultry products. I like to look at consumer patterns because they offer an indication for future market trends.

To maximise sales, I need to master these trends.

In Kenya, there are consumers who prefer chicken meat from indigenous birds because it is lean, has a natural flavour and is raised organically. There are also those who prefer broilers.

One customer told me this about broilers, “The meat is tender and lacks the strong odour found in some indigenous chicken meat.” (Seeds of Gold, January 30, 2016).

PREFER CHICKEN BREAST

I have also met customers who prefer hens to cocks for meat, although they are few. Of course, when a hen is at its prime of egg production, selling it for meat is a loss.

Another thing I have observed is that for Luhya customers, an order for a full dressed-up chicken must include gizzards, legs and the head (you only discard the feathers and intestines) (Seeds of Gold, December 25, 2016).

There are also those who insist that the egg yolk has to be yellow (Seeds of Gold, January 14, 2016).

Another thing I have learnt in selling chicken meat per kilo is that customers prefer the weight between 1.5 and 2.5kg. When it is too low or too high, they shy away.

That means that if you are rearing improved indigenous birds like the Kuroilers that can reach 4kg, you need to sell them as early as possible.

Now, to find out why the demand for wings, thighs and drum sticks is low in Europe, I spoke to a friend who has travelled widely and who is also a certified clinical nutritionist.

She told me that in Europe, consumers prefer the chicken breast to thighs and drumsticks.

“The preference for chicken breast is purely related to health,” she told me.

Now, this didn’t make sense because I was taught in medical school that one way of reducing cholesterol is by cutting out red meat from your diet and opting for white meat – chicken or fish (you can also reduce cholesterol by opting for plant sources of proteins like nuts and beans).

HEART DISEASES AND DEATH

The reason is that the latter has less cholesterol, which contributes to heart diseases and death.

“Not all chicken is created equal,” the nutritionist warned me. “If your aim is to reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood, the part of the chicken you eat also matter.”

She explained that the term ‘white meat’ in reference to the whole chicken is misleading. Chicken breast, according to her, is the leanest part of chicken followed by the drumstick, wings and the thighs in that order.

“In fact, when compared gram for gram, eating chicken thighs, wings and drumsticks can give you just as much saturated fat and calories as you get from red meat.”

My guess is that it will take a bit of time for consumers here to take into consideration the part of the chicken in making consumption choices.

However, I need to be ahead of the curve and I have included this in my marketing plan.

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Your Questions Answered

Akanyana Sharon, Rwanda: I need a template for a good business plan. Also, do you offer consultancy services on developing the same?

Yes, I offer consultancy on developing poultry business plans to individuals and groups. The first step is to agree on the purpose – internal planning or raising funds and the objectives.

It is a lot of work and it can take between one to three months to finish one. Please send me an email to book.

James Oduor: I maintain a ratio of one cock for ten hens but only one of the eggs out of the number hatches. What is the problem?

Ensure you only incubate eggs less than 10 days old. During storage, store with the sharp end facing down.

Boniface Kitungulu: Your articles are a great. Share the outline for a poultry business plan.

Please send me an email.