The British poultry meat sector is a dynamic, fast-paced modern food industry, producing consistently safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable meat.
Poultry accounts for around half (49%) of all meat eaten in the UK, almost the same volume as beef, pork and lamb combined, and consumption is set to increase further.
The British poultry meat industry produces around 875 million chickens, 17 million turkeys, 16 million ducks and 250,000 geese a year, with over 2,500 poultry farms across the UK and around 30 food productions sites and slaughterhouses.
The poultry industry is a vertically integrated industry. Poultry companies usually cover all steps of the supply chain from breeding, hatching and growing to processing. Some companies also have their own feed mills and rendering plants. Vertical integration allows for a very short supply chain, high levels of control throughout the chain and exemplary traceability from egg to plate.
Only those birds suited to thrive in indoor systems have been selected, over the last 40 years, to be part of poultry breeding programmes. Around 95% of British chickens and turkeys are reared in large specially-designed houses.
Birds reared for meat are very different from breeds of birds kept for laying table eggs. From being day-old chicks right up to the day of slaughter, the birds can roam throughout the house on fresh litter of chopped straw or wood shavings.
Carefully designed systems deliver clean feed and water to the growing birds, while fans automatically provide fresh air and the houses are heated in the winter. Rearing birds indoors helps to protect them, not only from the elements and predators, but also from diseases harmful to the birds and from bacterial infections in the environment.
Everyone from stockmen, nutritionists, hatchery technicians, veterinarians, logistic experts, welfare specialists, processors and butchers, microbiologists, food technologists, marketing gurus, IT programmers and accountants are covered by an industry that embraces the ‘farm to fork’ production of healthy affordable and popular food.
The process to bring poultry to the supermarket shelves and restaurants involves a vast infrastructure, and a large number of trained and skilled people committed to the products they provide.