There could never be enough home-grown breast meat
to meet the insatiable demand, say leading processors

IMPORTED chicken was a clear fact of life at this years big showcase for the food industry, Expo 98 held at the NEC, Birmingham last month.

Alongside the stands devoted to specialist importers of poultry meat products, many UK-based processors also now conceded that they now had little choice but to look overseas for the raw material for those production lines which required large quantities of pure breast meat.

In particular the growing demand for meat for sandwiches and for small fillets and goujons for the catering trade was creating an impossible imbalance in the market.

Bure Valley Foods is one of those that supplies a significant proportion of its sales as cooked meat to sandwich, pizza, and ready meal manufacturers. Commercial director Kay Bailey pointed out that only 20 per cent of the bird was breast fillet. “It cant all be UK-produced product,” she said. “Where would all the legs and wings go?”

It was a similar story from Grampian, where there was a new range of premium marinated chicken fillets for caterers. They came in two varieties, sun-dried tomato and chilli and garlic, and comprised tender small single fillets of chicken breast, hand-trimmed. They were all inner fillets, weight-graded to give a consistent portion size.

Despite Grampians substantial UK production base, foodservice manager Phil Eccleston explained that the fillets could only practicably be sourced outside the UK, and it was still an expensive item to produce.

Gott Foods had now taken the step of basing a man full-time in Thailand to control the quality of the raw material sourced from there. The company produces a wide range of products from whole birds to shredded meat.

The Thai chicken was being used for Gotts cooked stripped meat products. Although these comprised a small part of the companys total business, importing was something they had to do because it was becoming impossible to source in the UK at a realistic price, said general sales manager Allan Middleditch.

To ensure the right quality for the UK market, the breasts were being imported whole, matured for 24 hours, cooked as a whole fillet then sliced or diced.

“The Thai meat is stripped from the bone by hand, which means much less chance of any bone contamination,” he added.

There were bulk packs of battered breast fillets from Thailand on display on the stand of Fields International, and this was also a source point for VFB/ Henryson Foods, along with Belgium, Holland, and France. The VFB product range included raw and cooked boneless poultry, plus liquid eggs, omelettes, scrambled egg and egg mayonnaise.

  • For this and other stories, see Poultry World, 3-30 April, 1998

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