Free range poultry producers increase outputs

Two Scottish free-range poultry producers have reacted to rising consumer demand in recent weeks by announcing increases in production.

Robert Chapman, who runs Farmlay at Strachen in Aberdeenshire, speaking during an organic chicken farming conference in Edinburgh said the company planned to increase free-range egg production by 30,000 eggs a week.

At the same time the Grampian Country Food Group has said that it will be increase its free-range production from 45,000 to 90,000 birds a week and its organic production by 5000 birds a week to 20,000.

Commenting on the situation Mr Chapman said: “The rise in sales has been fairly substantial – and it’s been sustained.

“Normally, when these programmes come on, you get a change for a couple of weeks after them. But this time it’s just kept going. Folk are becoming more aware of how food is produced and where it comes from. All these things are more important to consumers.”

Speaking after the conference, Grampian spokesman Alasdair Cox said that the campaign by the two chefs [Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall] had seen a change in demand by shoppers at Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer.

He went on: “Free range has seen the bigger increase because organic is more expensive. The expansion is focused on free range because that is where the most demand is.

“Organic is also more expensive to get into, both in terms of capital costs for setting up and ongoing costs. There is also a shortage of organic and and supply of chicken feed too.

“Free range and organic, at 4.5% and 1.5% still represent just a fraction of our overall business, although both sectors are growing.

“Conventional chicken still accounts for 94% of Grampian’s sales,” he said.