Frederick Grimaud, president of a breeder group that covers ducks, geese, and meat chickens (Hubbard), told the recent British Poultry Veterinary Association meeting in Harrogate that the group’s target turnover for 2008 was €208m (£167m), €50m (£40m) up on 2007.
The firm is a front runner in the duck breeding sector, where Pekin (80 to 85% of market share) came first, with Barbary and the hybrid Mule in second and third places.
With the Pekin, selective breeding over the past decade had reduced fat levels dramatically, boosting feed conversion from 2.56 to 2.01. Time to reach market weight had been cut from 48 to 41 days, he said.
The killing age of the Barbary had been kept at 84 days to increase levels of the prized beef-like, red meat. The results had been spectacular, with an average 25% of fillet meat across the board and an extra 80g per bird for the heaviest males.
He described the Mule as the 4×4 of the duck world – able to survive and flourish in the toughest conditions, able to go anywhere and find a ready market. It was a genuine hybrid, a combination of the fast-growing Pekin with the red meat yield and the Muscovy’s weight.
Future market development focused on the group’s strengths, China, south-east and central Europe, and France. “Regarding the UK, there is a strong leader with Cherry-Valley,” he said.
The industry would continue to grow as long as those involved accepted that genetics would always remain a compromise. “For a genetic company like us, the chief risk will be to forget the animal and to focus only on science,” he warned.