Irish farmers rally against slow growing breeds

Broiler producers in Northern Ireland have turned out in droves to voice their frustration at a loss of profitability from their broiler flocks following the introduction of slower growing breeds.

About 220 broiler, broiler breeder and turkey producers, who supply O’Kane Poultry, attended a meeting organised by the Ulster Farmers Union in Ballymena, County Atrim, last night (Thursday) with farmers also complaining of a lack of consistency in bird performance and feed quality.

Following the meeting, UFU president John Thompson said representatives from all three sectors, along with a member of the UFU, would meet O’Kane Poultry as soon as possible to discuss the latest broiler contract.

“O’Kane Poultry need these growers and the growers need O’Kane Poultry. We are all in this together and it is imperative that we reach a consenus on a profitable way forward for the growers and the company.”

The latest meeting follows a previous meeting in early May, which attracted almost 70 producers to express their concerns that low prices were failing to cover growing costs.

O’Kane management said the performance issues related to longer growth periods owing to the use of a slower growing, higher welfare breed and they had contacted producers concerning an increase to contract prices.

“We acknowledge that our poultry producers are experiencing some difficulties in relation to bird performance, this issue is linked to a certain strain of higher welfare bird bred specifically to grow slowly,” O’Kane Poultry managing director Tony O’Neill said.

“We have written directly to our producers offering them an increase to their contract price in recognition of the difficulties they currently face.”

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