Large scale poultry producers have ramped up their investment in new buildings over the last 12-18 months, buoyed by increasing consumption of poultry meat and eggs, a leading rural planning company has said.
Over the period Acorus Rural Property Services has worked to develop planning proposals for about 2m square feet of floor space across the UK.
“The biggest chunk of these is mainstream broilers, but there are some broiler breeder units we have done and a couple of enriched cage units and quite a few free-range laying units,” said Brian Barrow, managing director of Acorus.
“We had a steady stream of people looking to build free-range units, and up to about three months ago we have two or three free-range units on the go. But obviously when the market and contracts dropped away people stopped putting in the planning applications.”
Mr Barrow said the expansion he has seen is coming from the large producers, which he believes is a sign they are moving to capitalise on the decline of some small producers.
“Some of the bigger players are saying we need to invest, and they are putting up modern big units, hoping as time goes on and the older units need to close they are in a good position to suck up the demand,”
“These units are for UK-produced poultry and they are welfare friendly – obviously some of these new units are going up with the potential to produce at a Freedom Foods standard, and as stocking densities go down that increase the demand for buildings.”
Charles Bourns, NFU poultry committee chairman and broiler producer, welcomed renewed investment in the sector after “a decade of neglect”.
“We haven’t done any expansion for the last ten years, and everybody believes that demand for British chicken has been good, maybe because the pound has been weak, but it’s good to see confidence has come back into the industry,” Mr Bourns said.
“Chicken companies are short of square footage and everyone knows there are a lot of old sheds like mine which will be going out of production in the next five years and they’ll need replacing. Companies have the confidence to do it and they are going for it, which has been long overdue.”
Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said he believed the expansion was because companies were adapting to IPPC regulation changes.
“They are going to have to renovate or replace, and renovation probably isn’t an option in some cases,” Mr Bradnock said.
“If you haven’t got any insulation in a building, it’s too much of an investment renovating something that is not going to last.”