Safe and quality chickens

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By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

Even as the Philippines enjoys an ongoing stint of international renown for being a fast-growing and newly industrialized developing nation, much of the population still has its roots in the country’s agricultural past. According to data from the World Bank, nearly a third of all working Filipinos are employed in the agricultural sector as of 2015. And even up to now, the Philippines as a country is known worldwide for its significant rice, pineapples, and sugar exports.

This reputation is proof that the country is capable of going toe to toe with other countries in the global market and meeting international standards of quality in agricultural products. Even in the poultry industry, the Philippines has been establishing a name for itself as equal to its international competitors.

Lawyer Elias Jose M. Inciong, president of United Broilers Raisers Association, a group of poultry growers in the country, expressed his confidence that in terms of average live weight, feed conversion, and harvest recovery, the Philippines is meeting global standards.

“Because of the developments in genetics, nutrition, and management (of the poultry), we are at par with international standards,” Mr. Inciong told BusinessWorld in an interview.

“Our private sector is very competitive. If you are not proactive in the private sector, you won’t last,” he said.

Innovation, he pointed out, is necessary for even the smallest players in the market, especially as a trend of food awareness is beginning to take hold of consumers worldwide.

Paul Fullbright, president of C-Joy Poultry Meats Production, a joint venture between food producers Cargill Philippines and Jollibee Foods Corporation, told BusinessWorld that the consumers of today increasingly want to know more about how and where their food is produced. C-Joy itself, he said, has been constantly innovating to meet the evolving consumer demands.

“The poultry business is constantly innovating, which should allow for more wholesome and better value food for our families,” Mr. Fullbright said.

These innovations have affected every aspect of the industry’s supply chain, from poultry nutrition technology that allows precision nutrient uptake according to nutrient demand, trucks that allow real time tracking in the supply chain, environmental monitoring equipment that uploads data real-time to a smartphone for fast decisions, and freezing technology that allows products to be frozen in minutes from processing. Improvements in natural selection in broiler genetics have made birds more efficiently productive and sustainable.

“We at C-Joy are committed to sustainable practices across our poultry business,” he said. We protect animal welfare, reduce environmental impact and increase transparency. We also work to keep people safe, both the workers who handle poultry and the consumers who eat our products.”

Of course, in the light of all innovation, the threat of food contamination still remains the top priority for those in the poultry business. Mr. Fullbright said that the most important thing for the poultry industry is to keep vigilance for any dangers to food safety, especially in an environment susceptible to highly pathogenic diseases like avian influenza.

“We must be vigilant in maintaining solid cold chains all the way to end consumers — this is crucial for food safety and quality. The best businesses in the Philippines invest in good equipment as well as strong teams & processes that ensure that these systems are followed rigorously,” he said.

Mr. Inciong is not worried, however. In the rare case of any future breaches in food safety, he expressed his confidence that the government and the private sector are more than enough to handle it.

“We already know what needs to be done (in emergency situations). If there’s an announcement of any breaches, we increase our biosecurity measures. The government will isolate (the areas suspected of infection), all in accordance with protocols,” he said.

Overall, the future looks bright for the Philippines regarding its emerging poultry industry. Through constant innovation and improvement, the country might soon see its chicken products dominate the international market.

“I am beyond excited about the prospects of the poultry industry, not only because of the demand trends (double digit projected growth), but also because I see that the industry in the Philippines has an opportunity to be a regional player in chicken production,” Mr. Fullbright said.

He added: “But, in order to do this, we must work consciously to increase efficiencies and find ways to lower input costs to be competitive with others in the region. The reason I get excited about this is that it can be such a benefit to the Filipino people, and it is a great honor to produce wonderful food at a great price.”