For years, poultry processors based outside of Asia have been consolidating their position within the continent. For Latin American producers, the continent has become the “New North.” 

It is worth taking a moment to look at why this market has become so important for Western poultry processors.

First, it is a big market, accounting for some 40 percent of the total market worldwide. But as important for Western poultry processors is the demand for dark meat, which grows by the day. This demand is the ideal complement for the white meat that is used by the fast food industry in the Americas and other Western markets. 

Asian countries import poultry meat not only in the form that is viewed as traditional in the west, but they also want parts of the chicken that the Western countries have long viewed as raw material for further processing or rendering. A good example is the cartilage found in the rib cage and in leg joints. 

Supplying these specialized products that form part of the varied Asian cuisine helps to increase the value per kilo of processed chicken.

Broadening the market

But could there be the same demand for these types of products outside of Asia, particularly among Asian communities.

Latin American processors have a strong presence in Asia, and there are Asian communities throughout Latin America. The region’s processors could broaden their focus, as could processors in other parts of the world.

A simple survey of those of Asian heritage in Latin America has suggested that there is demand for Asian-type poultry products outside of Asia.

When asked if they had visited the countries of their parents or grandparents, 80 percent responded that they had. One hundred percent of respondents said that they liked snacks such as chicken legs and cartilage, and the same figures said they would buy such products if available locally. 

For the poultry processor, this unsatisfied demand represents an untapped opportunity that could be worth exploring, and there are several areas that may be worth further consideration.

For example, how are the famous chicken paws that are so popular in China prepared and cooked? It would also be worth investigating how femur cartilage, a snack sometimes served as an accompaniment to drink, is prepared. Similarly, how is thorax cartilage, which is served with sake in Japan, prepared and served?

To gauge market interest outside Asia, it could be worth processors trialing these foods across the Americas and Europe, offering samples to restaurants, for example. This sort of snack also could be offered at international poultry conventions. 

If demand is established, processors could start more organized production to serve their local Asian markets. Catering to such a need would not only establish a new market, but also offer a safety net for this segment of the processing business should, for some reason, exports to Asian countries run into difficulties.

Deeper market penetration

There is, however, an additional factor to consider, and that is a growing number of people without a connection to the region that have visited Asia either for business or pleasure. Many have tried paws, legs and cartilage in their various presentations, meaning that the local market is potentially larger than simply the community with Asian heritage. 

In many cities around there world, there are successful Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants – and the vast majority of their clients have no connection with Asia. 

For Western poultry processors, marketing the type of product usually exported to the East on their home markets could prove a valuable new income stream. However, attempting to establish and grow this market should be approached with a degree of caution. Any processor must be properly equipped to respond to this potential source of demand without putting in jeopardy already established Asian export markets.