The new L’Œuf d’Or hatchery, dedicated to slower-growing chicken breeds, has been inaugurated in Andenne, Belgium. 

In total, more than 850 persons on November 16-17 attended the opening of this hatchery, designed to have a state-of-the-art approach to animal welfare and environment. Walloon Minister of Agriculture René Collin and Andenne Mayor Claude Eerdekens fulfilled the ribbon cutting ceremony together with the initiators of the L’Œuf d’Or project, Christian Van Ryckeghem and Steven Vervaeke. 

“(The location was) a strategic choice, as Wallonia is producing 80 percent of the Belgian volume of alternative broilers and this segment is (increasing yearly),” said Van Ryckeghem.

The consumers in Wallonia  –  and in nearby Luxemburg – have a clear preference for organic and/or certified label  production, because they are very attentive to animal-friendly production and attach high importance to the quality and taste of the product, Van Ryckeghem added. 

“I am enthusiastic that the new hatchery is situated in the immediate proximity of our customers and in a first phase we will produce for them 130,000 day-old alternative chicks per week, but the hatchery – an investment of EUR6 million (US$6.8 million) is designed in such a way that capacity can be increased”.     

Vervaeke, the second initiator, stated: “I am proud and honored to be part of this transparent project that completely fits in the 10-year plans of the Walloon region to further develop the alternative poultry production sector.” 

Vervaeke also explained why L’Œuf  d’Or can justify the animal welfare claim: “We have chosen to eliminate all stressful automatized handling of our day-old chicks from hatch until delivery to nearby farms. Furthermore, indispensable Marek’s and Gumboro vaccination will already be conducted in ovo.”

Environment is also a priority as the hatchery will operate fully on renewable energy through the use of solar panels, heat exchangers, and heat pumps.

Last but not least, sanitary aspects, hygiene and traceability are fully taken into account. Rearing and reproduction of the Sasso and Hubbard parent stock are fully integrated. Vervaeke noted that strict rules are followed from collection of the eggs until delivery of the day-old chicks. Key in this approach are stringent vaccination of parent stock and chicks, application of biosecurity rules and control plans, and intensive training of staff, he added.

Van Ryckeghem clarified that, “Although we now inaugurate a modern and visionary hatchery in  Belgium, this project is backed by  more than 100 years of history”.

It was his grandfather who started the hatchery activities of L’Œuf d’Or in 1911 in Kruishoutem, East-Flanders.

“Since 2001 the focus of the hatchery became organic production and slow growing breeds and since 2016 these activities are conducted in close partnership with another competent and passionate family of hatchers, namely Axel and Steven Vervaeke from Vervaeke-Belavi in Tielt, West-Flanders,” Van Ryckeghem said.

Both initiators are trusting the daily management of the activities to a young  and  motivated team, where François Cuisinier will act as general and commercial manager and François-Xavier d’Hem as the operational manager.