Jolly's chicken legs

Spent hen prices are coming under renewed pressure, with a number of important markets remaining closed to British poultry products due to the recent outbreak of avian influenza.

Martin Troop from Noble Foods, which is heavily involved in the trade, said spent hens were down to 10p each this week, and would be valueless next week.

Breeders were put at 12-15p a bird, with further reductions to come.

See also: Bird flu costs mount up as markets close

The all-important Nigerian market was effectively closed, with buyers even claiming that frozen product was contaminated, he explained.

“Nigeria is a very important market as it takes more than 50% of all hen and breeder legs produced in Europe.

“The Nigerians also want to increase internal production and avian influenza gives them an excuse to reduce imports.”

Mr Troop also pointed to the closure of the South African market, which meant there were a lot of chicken legs looking for new outlets.

“They are selling exceptionally cheaply,” he said. “In some parts of the US, they are being rendered.”

Meanwhile, the market in Ghana was severely depressed due to cheap imports from North America and Brazil.

These avian influenza-related effects were adding to what was already a poor market for spent hens, said Mr Troop. In particular he listed:

  • The weak euro/sterling exchange rate, reducing UK export prices
  • Lower breastmeat prices as a result of more European, Thai and Brazilian product on the UK market
  • No sales of feet to Hong Kong, meaning the product is now being rendered
  • Rendering prices have been reduced in response to falling oil prices

“The net result is that live prices are already reducing and, while we may not be charging to take hens, their value is greatly reduced due to the fact that we haven’t got a market for all the legs we produce,” Mr Troop said.