Chicken meat accounts for the largest part of South African agricultural GDP. With a growing population, the local poultry industry has experienced annual growth in excess of 5% over recent years, partly driven by an expanding population and rising living standards. Based in the small town of Darling, in South Africa’s Western Cape, Darling Fresh Chicken and Darling Fresh Chicken Holdings started business as recently as 2008 and have recorded an impressive first few years in the market.
“It was recognized that great potential existed for a quality poultry producer within the Western Cape,” says Niel Liebenberg, operational manager. “In a very short time, DFC has established itself as a quality poultry producer with an extremely good reputation in the market for producing quality products.”
Started by a local businessman active in the dairy industry, DFC is now a fully integrated producer; the company quickly began to penetrate various, small-scale segments of the local poultry market. In 2010, they won a supply contract with one of South Africa’s nationwide retailers that made sale volumes grow exponentially. The operation is now run by Pan Lamprecht.
DFC is part of Darling Fresh Chicken Holdings, along with DFC Breeder Farm, DFC Hatchery, and DFC Breeder Farm.
DFC Breeder Farm, situated in Piketberg, consists of four rearing and eight laying environmentally controlled Skov houses. The farm is currently operating at full capacity at around 250,000 eggs per week. Eggs are delivered twice a week to the DFC Hatchery.
DFC Hatchery, on the outskirts of Darling comprises six setter and six hatching machines made by Pas Reform. The current operation has a capacity of some 200,000 chicks per week, but is currently operating at a level of 170,000 chicks per week. The average hatchability is in the region of 83%.
DFC Broiler Farm is situated on two adjacent farms, Kikoesvlei and De Lelie, in Malmesbury district. The farm consists of seven sites with three Skov broiler houses on each site.
The layout and design of the farm allows for the addition of two more houses per site and one additional site of five houses on the farm. The chickens are raised over a 34-35 day period to a target weight of 1.8 kg per chicken. Once the chickens have reached the specified weight and/or age, a catching team from the abattoir catches one site per week to be slaughtered and processed at the abattoir, which runs five days a week and slaughters approximately 25,000 birds per day.
With sales now in the region of R125-150 million (US$15-18 million), the company now processes and distributes 5.6 million chickens annually, primarily to customers in the Western Cape. Working exclusively with chicken, it produces fresh and frozen birds and processed meat. A new venture has been the production of affordable chicken mince.
Most of the South African industry supplies to the home market, and while the majority of DFC’s sales are within South Africa, the company has set its sights further afield. Product is already being sold into the Namibian, Ghanaian and other neighbouring markets and the search is on for other market opportunities as the company is convinced that demand for poultry products in the region will grow exponentially in the near future.
Commitment to quality
DFC produces “extremely high quality chicken products containing no brine injections or growth hormones.” The company believes that all the trimming and cutting of meat in the DFC abattoir done by hand contributes to and maintains the “outstanding quality” of the product range. DFC rears Cobb 500 birds, which it finds attractive for meat yield, in particular breast meat yield.
South Africa is primarily a frozen market, with fresh birds only accounting for some 20% of the market, yet the majority of DFC’s production is fresh. The company believes that the fresh sector offers huge and highly profitable opportunities.
“Darling Fresh Chicken has been able to construct a favourable reputation relating to the entire product range,” says Mr Liebenberg. “We believe that partnering with the correct strategic retailers and focusing on bringing fresh products to consumers with the actual stores themselves, we can only build on the already favourable reputation existing within the market.”
But this commitment to quality is not restricted to the company’s product offering as Corrie Botha, legal representative and assistant to the CEO, explains: “We employ 453 staff members in the entire group of companies. As a business, we respect the responsibility of companies to look after their community and the environment we do business in. We therefore mainly employ people from local and nearby communities and believe that through doing that, we contribute and uplift the people closest to home.”
Mr Liebenberg says: “We consistently analyze our consumer market to proactively identify consumer trends and requirements, and our processing operation is structured in such a way that we can dynamically adapt to cater to constantly changing consumer preferences.”
Growth within the company looks set to continue. Mr Liebenberg explains that the DFC has several initiatives to expanding production on all components within the group. The market is regularly tested with new product ranges, which can offer a “first mover” advantage in obtaining maximum market share.
On-site, the company is planning to expand its broiler facilities, its hatchery and breeder operations. It is also looking at trials with Alltech to produce the first lower-cholesterol chicken in South Africa.