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Corn-fed chicken a success story

Corn-fed chicken a success story

2012/13 Season

Owners: Turk's Poultry Ltd
Farm location: Foxton, Lower North Island

Corn-fed chicken is a wonderful success story for Turk’s Poultry Ltd and the maize grain that feeds their birds represents a significant market opportunity for lower North Island growers.

Turk’s Poultry is a family-owned and managed business which is vertically integrated from rearing birds to sales anddispatch of “supermarket-shelf-ready” poultry meat products. It was originally established as an egg production operation by John Turk (Snr) in 1966.

Broiler production was added in 1996. With its main operation in Foxton, Turk’s currently employs 180 staff. Managing Director Ron Turk joined his father John in the business when he left school 40 years ago.

“I’ve only ever had one job since I left school when I was 16”, he says. “I worked my way up the ranks and took over the reins from Dad about 15 years ago.”

The scale of the Turk’s business is impressive. Each year it produces 30 million eggs and 4.5 million broiler chickens.

The company’s 100,000 Red Shaver hens produce 83,000 eggs every day. Their life expectancy is around 85 weeks, after which the lay rate decreases, shell quality deteriorates and they are slaughtered, processed and sold as table hens.

The broilers, which are also owned by the Turks, are grown under contract on several farms near the company’s Foxton processing plant. Most of the farms are family-owned and there is a mix of around 25% free-range and 75% barnraised rearing systems. Birds come onto the farms as dayold chicks and are sent for processing at 36 to 42 days, by which time they are between 2-3 kg liveweight.

“Globally there has been a huge effort into breeding for feed efficiency in chickens”, says Ron. “It takes around 3.5 kg of feed to produce a 2 kg chicken.”

In the Turk’s operation more than 50% of this feed is locally produced maize grain which is mixed with other ingredients including wheat, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, broll and minerals to produce a nutritionally balanced blend.

“Maize produces healthy chickens with a delicious flavour”, says Ron. “Customers love our corn-fed chicken and won’t go back to other products.”

The maize grain is produced under contract by 15 to 20 local growers. Turk’s dry around two-thirds themselves and the balance is contract dried and brought to the feed processing plant as it is required.

“We leave the maize hybrid choice to the growers”, says Ron. “They plant a range of Pioneer hybrids that will produce the highest yield under their own growing conditions.”

So what does the future hold for this innovative company whose high quality corn-fed chicken products have taken the local market by storm?

“Ultimately we want to export our products into Asia”, says Ron. “During the next two to three years we are aiming to increase our growing operation so we have more corn-fed chickens to process.”

More chickens will require more feed and Ron is adamant maize, along with as many other inputs as possible, will be sourced locally.

“If we can buy it locally at a competitive price, we do”, says Ron “ Supporting local business helps our local economy and that’s really important to us all.”