The first Hubbard Premium Forum fully focusing on premium broiler products and markets, held in Breukelen near Utrecht in the Netherlands, was an overwhelming success with 106 attendees from 18 different countries. At the end of the forum, Hubbard promised its customers of Hubbard Premium products that this forum will be the first of a series of meetings which will be held in different parts of Europe.

Hubbard, a global leader in the market of premium chickens, gathered its main customers in Europe to get to know each other better, to exchange about Hubbard’s research and development for premium products and to share technical and practical information from the field. It allowed the participants to increase their knowledge about Hubbard’s premium product range, the growing differentiation of the broiler markets in the European Union (EU) and how to get the best performance and optimal results for this growing segment of the market.

Premium poultry in European markets

During two morning sessions the presentations focused on different aspects of the premium products and markets in Europe. After the kick-off by Olivier Rochard, managing director of Hubbard, Peter van Horne, senior agronomist of WUR-LEI in the Netherlands, made a comparison of broiler production costs of the main countries in the EU and also compared these with the main exporting countries: the United States, Brazil and Thailand. He concluded that without trade barriers the EU certainly cannot compete on costs. Therefore a differentiation in production systems can be a way to stay ahead.

Paul van Boekholt, Hubbard business director, Northern Europe, summarized the past and current developments of product and market types in the EU and the growing differentiation, now not based on tradition but driven by animal welfare and more recently the need to reduce the use of antibiotics in the production chain.

Wilbert Hilkens, sector manager, animal production, of ABN AMRO, presented the recent developments of differentiated broiler production chains in the Netherlands, e.g. ‘Beter Leven’ and the ‘Chicken of Tomorrow,’ as a good example on how the industry can react to changing consumer demands. He also gave an overview of changing consumer preferences and its expected implications for the supply chains of meat, eggs and vegetables by 2020.

Free-range and indoor poultry production

French broiler integrator Duc presented the development of its certified broiler production in free-range and indoor in France since 1991, while Campoaves explained the production of its free-range chicken ‘Frango Do Campo’ in Portugal.

Antibiotic-free chicken demand growing

Mark Barnes, chief operating officer of Hubbard LLC in the U.S., summarized the recent developments of the production of antibiotic-free (ABF) broilers and slower growing chickens in the U.S. market. The production of ABF broilers is driven by large restaurant and supermarket chains supported through social media and changing needs of the millennials. The ABF market is there to stay, Barnes said. Five of the top ten integrators are or will be producing ABF broilers. It is now becoming the norm, not the exception, and in 2015 represents nearly 25 percent of the total output of broilers.

Slower growing poultry products

The sales of slower growing products initially started for the New York and California markets, but is now spreading more throughout the country due to ethnicity, taste, demographics, social media and customer demand. Hubbard’s sales in this market segment more than doubled over the last two years.

Hubbard research and development efforts

Frederic Fagnoul, Hubbard geneticist for the Hubbard Premium product range, gave more insight in the work done at research and development level with a clear focus on robustness, welfare traits, productivity, efficiency and meat quality. Hubbard has been selecting slower growing broiler breeds for nearly 50 years and has adapted its breeding program to changes in consumption patterns and the increased demand for conformation and meat quality. For that, Hubbard has intensified its selection following these latest trends and is finalizing a multi-million Euro investment in its R&D and production center for the Hubbard Premium product range in Courtenay, France.

Marcel Vanlauwe, who has been involved in the selection of the Hubbard Premium Products for several decades, summarized the excellent breeder results in the field for the Hubbard JA57, JA87, Redbro M and P6N. These field results are gathered from Hubbard’s customers using the Hubbard Flock Recording system, which is available for free for all Hubbard customers. Based on these data Marcel could proudly show that for all breeder females the average production of hatching eggs per hen housed is above the Hubbard standard. He stressed that it is very important to develop a good carcass during the first period of rearing. It helps to achieve the best uniformity, combined with good appetite and egg size and to get good peaks and good persistency.

Claude Toudic, Hubbard technical manager EMEA and Brazil, focused on the results of an experimental trial done by ITAVI and INRA in France on a multi-criteria evaluation of the Hubbard JA757 and JA957 broilers in indoor, winter garden and free-range housing systems. He concluded that carcass quality tends to be better when birds have access to a winter garden or a ranging area (less fat pads and skin lesions). The winter garden and free range systems are improving the image of broiler growing towards consumers. However, ‘free-range’ is a recognized category in the EU regulation, but the ‘winter garden’ as used in the Netherlands is not. This makes the involvement of retailers in the communication to consumers very important.

Conclusion of forum

At the end of the forum, it was clear to all attendees that Hubbard offers the largest range of parent females and males to be able to respond to all the different requirements of the premium markets ranging from organic, Label Rouge, 81-day free range, 56-day free range, certified, Freedom Food and the more recent developments like ‘Beter Leven’ and the ‘Chicken of Tomorrow’ in the Netherlands. Hubbard stated it takes the premium market segment very seriously as it is a key objective of Hubbard to bring the ‘taste with a difference’ to more people in the world.