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Poultry king Poland hatches 2 billion chicks a year

China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-13 09:55
One-day-old chicks are seen in a hatchery in Skarzynek, Poland, on Oct 1. WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KONDRAJEC PANSKI, Poland - In what looks like a Niagara Falls of yellow feathers, thousands of chicks cascade down a conveyor belt in central Poland.

A day old, they only have 41 days of life left. Their fate is sealed: Once grown, they will wind up on a plate.

Nonetheless, the conditions during their brief lives should be better, according to animal welfare activists, ever more active and influential in Poland as elsewhere.

The city of New York voted last month to ban the sale of foie gras, which is made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese.

Also last month, the French government announced that the culling of male chicks by a macerator - a high-speed grinder - would be outlawed by the end of 2021.

For the day-old Polish chicks, their next stop is a chicken coop the size of a hangar.

It houses 54,000 chickens - hopping, pecking, clucking and raising their heads to drink from suspended water bowls.

Chicken over pork

"After six weeks, the chickens grow to between 2.7 and 2.8 kilograms" after weighing 40 grams on day one, said Andrzej Gontarski, head of the farm comprising a dozen such warehouses in the village of Kondrajec Panski.

Poland's poultry industry has come a long way over the past decade.

The country is now Europe's top chicken producer and exporter, having raised more than a billion chickens for meat last year, according to Statistics Poland. That's 10 times more than in 2009.

Chicken was the natural choice over pork: The sky is the limit for the poultry export market, whereas many countries, especially Muslim ones, do not allow pork imports.

The production cycle is also shorter, and the invested funds are recouped faster, after a mere dozen weeks or so.

Growing industry

Every year, 1.8 billion chicks are born in Poland, according to Mariusz Paweska, an official from a large hatchery in the area, in the village of Skarzynek.

Many are exported almost immediately, notably to Belarus and Ukraine, but more than half are raised in Poland for consumption at home or future export.

Germany is the biggest export market, followed by the Netherlands and Britain, with Ukraine, South Africa and Hong Kong the main ones outside of the European Union bloc.

The industry continues to grow.

"Just this year we've seen six new slaughterhouses open up. They can process more than 1.4 million chickens a day," said Piotr Tarkowski, whose employer Agraimpex exports $24 million worth of poultry every year.

Poland's main asset is its prices. They are much lower than those of Western poultry farmers, according to Mariusz Szymyslik, a co-director of the national chamber of poultry and animal feed.

He said trade barriers still exist in the EU, especially protecting the French and German markets: "If the European market were totally free, Polish poultry would have swept the Western competition".

Agence France-Presse

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